Thursday, August 23, 2007

Who am I?

I gently rubbed the cotton damped with alcohol on his wrinkled upper arm. Straining my weary eyes, I looked for a vein in the already pale arms. Finally managing to locate one vein camouflaged between the distinct lines of wrinkles, I pierced a sterile needle into his skin. Assured that I had got in deep enough, I began to suck blood into the syringe. Together, the old man and I watched the dark, thick blood rise up the syringe. His glucose level figures for the previous week were fresh in my memory – 150 for fasting and a whopping 310 after a meal. His blood viscosity was thickening as well. I silently prayed for better results this time. Nurses have a soft side that is often overwhelmed by their show of resilience.

Giving him a warm assuring smile, I gently drew the needle out, emptied the contents of the syringe into a labeled test tube. I passed it over to the lab on my way to the maternity section in our hospital. A 4-day infant suffering from jaundice lay half-naked in the phototherapy incubator, the UV light making its yellow skin even brighter. The kid’s forlorn mother tiptoed behind me into the room, waiting for my approval. Medical rules are ones that even an illiterate would seldom fear breaking. She was more than eager to catch a glimpse of the result of her 10-month-long ordeal and breastfeed her kid. I could write stories of the mother’s agony, just by taking a glance at her eyes. They portrayed a desperate craving and anguish of a kind that no egoistic woman would curse another of her breed to suffer.

This wasn’t unusual to me. I waited outside. Once she was done, I guaranteed that her child would be fine and smiled. I had to move on. There was a patient in ward 235 ‘waiting’ to undergo dialysis in the next few minutes. This was going to be her fifth sitting. Another compulsory 3-hour nightmare she was forced to go through by her beloved family. I bet she would have rather wished she had prayed to die a peaceful, painless death instead of praying for her son’s promotion or for an ‘obedient’ daughter-in-law. Just when I completed setting up her dialysis, my senior nurse called for me to report for an emergency labour case.

This has always been one of the most exciting, painful and suspense-filled part of my career. It’s amazing how just a period of few minutes enlightens one to the inevitable truth of nature that life is the most precious gift on earth. I consider it a supreme power - a creation, surpassed only by creation itself. As my heart skipped a beat at the prospect of attending to my 10th labour case of the month, I was stopped by this 12-year old kid who was getting back home after a week-long stay for his acute knee fracture. I stopped in my tracks and gave him a hasty I-have-got-to-rush look.

“I loved the story u told me while plastering my leg yesterday.” He said, giving me a wide naughty grin. I shamelessly reciprocated with a quick smile.

“What do I call u?” He asked me, out-of-the-blue. “Uncle?”

The last glance that I had of his pearly eyes posed the same question that each of one my patients were tempted to ask – whether to call me brother, similar to addressing my female counterparts – sisters.

“Foster Father!” I replied, pecking him on his overgrown hair and sped towards the labour ward.

P.S.: Again, I is not me :D

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Crown

She brushed her jet black hair behind her ears, pulled the longer strands into a tight, high raised pony and stood staring at herself in the mirror. A tiny pimple had erupted just below her lips. She twitched. Splashing cold water onto her face, she looked at her reflection more closely, hoping against hope that the pimple would have disappeared merely by the touch of water. But it sparkled right there, like dew upon a blossomed flower. It could do nothing but further accentuate her fresh morning glow. Innocent of this fact, she silently cursed herself for having eaten that extra bar of chocolate. Wrapped in a light blue towel, she stepped on the weighing machine. The needle pointing at 55.5 refused to come just a few millimeters down to 55. She cursed again, but this time the Cadbury's company. Damn! They make such amazing chocolates.

Heaving a huge sigh of disgust, she leaned on a chair - her face neatly plastered with a pure white scrub that outlined her eyes and thin rosy lips. Each of her sparkling blue eyes was hidden beneath a slice of fresh cucumber. Her perfectly chiseled feet were immersed in a bucket of warm water. As she relaxed herself in the lingering smell of jasmine scented olive oil, her mind brought in front her, pictures from the news last night – beautiful ladies walking elegantly on stage, one amongst whom was crowned Miss World. It was impossible to refute the fact that she craved to catwalk on that stage, representing her country. Bold and beautiful. Sadly though, it wasn't to happen anytime in this lifetime.

Having to bring up a family of two sisters and a widowed mother, she had greater responsibilities to shoulder. Shattering her childhood dreams of becoming a beauty pageant, she went on to study engineering in a government college, amidst half a dozen proposals, each one of which she turned down, followed by campus placement with a leading software company. Sometimes, she felt God was just playing pranks with each one of his creations. His generosities indeed were very thoughtful, but at times, totally unnecessary. Or so she thought. She had everything it took to become what she desired for, yet such a mishap kept her far from her naïve dreams. Choice was a tough thing, especially because each one came with a unique and sometimes even a surprising consequence.

Thinking of dreams, of home, of her mother and her long-gone father, a drop of tear rolled down, leaving a trail on the dry remains of the facial scrub on her cheek. Her skin had become stiff. She removed the cucumber from her eyes and looked at the wall clock. She was late. She had to attend to an on-site call in the next thirty minutes. With no other choice left, she cat walked for her morning shower.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


6th December, 1995

I woke up quite early today. I think I had a dream, but I can't remember it now. Amma was surprised to see me wake up so early. She saw my eyes and said I was tense. Mummies are female magicians I think. Amma made bournvita for me and coffee for herself. I checked my bag once again if I had all that I needed for the evening's show. Appa woke up just then and asked me what I was 'rummaging' in my bag. I didn't understand the word he said. I think it means 'to mess up'. I didn't have time to look for its meaning in the new Oxford dictionary he bought for me. That can wait.

I called up my friend Sita and asked her for the 5th time if she is coming for the show. She promised she will come. But still, I keep asking her again and again. I hope she is not angry with me. I don't think she will be angry. She is a very patient and good girl. Lalitha maam always says this when she meets Sita's mom in the Parents-Teachers meeting. I am very lucky to have Sita as my best friend. Our class Seema is jealous of our friendship I think. I don't like Seema. I didn't invite her for the show tonight.

I called up my paati to check if she left. She was packing. My cousin told me she will leave soon. After this, I practiced once more. My teacher told me to practice in front of the mirror so that I will not be shy. I like my teacher a lot. She gives me homemade chocolates if I do well. I told my teacher to sit next to my mother in the front row. But she said she will be backstage. Even amma will be backstage and help me change my dress. I am feeling nervous. Something is happening in my stomach. My English teacher told me butterflies come in our tummy before we go on stage. The butterflies in my stomach have come very early.

20th April, 2004

It's been a roller coaster ride for the past one week. Adding to the rehearsals for my performance tomorrow, I have been submerged in neck-deep work at my workplace. I am yet to start packing. I guess I have become overconfident over these years. Everytime I pack for my performance, it reminds me of amma. She used to maintain a list of all that I needed for the show. I still have that piece of paper. It's torn off at the ends and looks so brown that I could complete packing by the time I decipher what's written on it. My mom has been insisting that I print out a copy, but I am either too proficient with the list or too lazy to do it. I guess it's more the latter than the former.

Over these years I have learnt to cover up for whatever I miss out on packing. When I had forgotten to pack my lipstick for the show last month, I sat chewing strawberry lollipop as I combed my hair. Infact I liked the naturally pink lips rather than the artificially painted glossy ones. Amma doesn't know this. This is one of those delicate secrets that precariously dangles by the tip of my tongue like a small chip of rock on a cliff. She would say I was much more responsible when I did my first arangetram 9 years ago. Now, every performance feels like a completely new experience. As the applause reverberates through the entire auditorium, a tickle runs through my exposed hands and sides of my sweaty hips.

I smile to myself. While one part of my mind appreciates the level of perfection I have attained over these years of dancing, another half goes on a flashback spree pointing out the minute mistakes that I committed during that show and wonders if anyone would have noticed them. It has not been so easy to be someone else and imitate their emotions with accuracy. Sometimes I feel I don't do justice to the role. But, I guess I should get soaked in that character to completely absorb the emotions.

One thing that has remained unchanged for the past 9 years is the fact that I still get butterflies in my tummy, hours before I step onto the stage.

P.S.: The I is not me :D