Friday, September 24, 2010

Boy

"பயணிகளின் கனிவான கவனத்திற்கு. கும்மிடிபூண்டி வரை செல்லும் அடுத்த மின்தொடர் வண்டி பதிமூன்றாம் நடைமேடையில் இருந்து புறப்படும்." ஒலிபொறியில் இருந்து ஒரு அமைதியான குரல், சுற்றில் இருந்த கலவரத்தில் ஒலித்தது. மே மாதத்தில் ஒரு இரவு. சென்னை புறநகர் ரயில் நிலையத்தில் புறப்பட இருக்க இருந்த வண்டியில் உட்கார்ந்து, ஜன்னல் வெளியே நோட்டம் விட்டு கொண்டிருந்தேன். அப்போது ஒரு சிறுவனும் சிறுமியும் வண்டியில் ஏறி என் முன் அமர்ந்தார்கள். 8 , 9 வயது இருக்கும். சீருடை அணிந்திருந்தனர். பள்ளியில் இருந்து வந்த களைப்பில் இருவரும் ஒரு குளிர் பானத்தை உரிந்து கொண்டிருந்தனர் சத்தமாக :-)

"அண்ணா, கால நவுத்திகொங்கணா.... "
பிறகு...  
"உங்கப்பா எப்போ டா வராரு ஊர்ல இருந்து?" 
"நாளைக்கு!"
"என்ன லாம் வாங்கிட்டு வரப்போறார்?"
"தெரியலையே.. எதாவது வாங்கிட்டு வருவாரு கண்டிப்பா....." 

எந்த ஊர்  என்று தெரியவில்லை, ஆனால் என் நினைவுகள் 2 வாரங்களுக்கு முன்னர் நான் பார்த்த ஒரு நியூ சிலாந்து நாட்டு திரைப்படத்திற்கு இழுத்து சென்றன. 

It is said that to make sense of your future, you have to understand your past. Many people grapple with their past. They ruminate and regret some things. Cherish some other things. All very natural, I suppose...... 
But when looking back at your memories, it is not to say that you have to necessarily explain your thoughts, decisions, actions,  in the past with valid justifications,  so that they make sense to you today.... They hardly ever will fit in perfectly with your worldly outlook now... That being said, the most poetic recollections of life back in the day are stories told with a most matter of fact tone. Without analysis or retrospect interpretation. 
"Boy" is one such story. 

Half way through the year 2005, I had been to a little town called Gisborne, on the east coast of the North Island, New Zealand. I spent a week there with a third of my entire medical class. This week was called the ECC week or Early Community Contact week. North of Gisborne, there lives a relatively large population of  the Maori People. These are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Like most places where Europeans settled down, the indigenous people of New Zealand, are well behind their fellow citizens in terms of socio-economic standing, education, life expectancy and health provision. Hence this was an opportunity to meet the Maori people in their own land and get to know them as a people, about their values and way of life, their reality... so that we can keep it in mind during our medical practice in New Zealand and be sensitive to their cultural needs. At that time, it was certainly an eye opener. 

After all these years, when I saw the movie boy, I was instantly transported to that place and time. It is a story set in the East Coast of New Zealand in 1984. It is about a boy called "boy". He is around 12 years old. He lives with his grandmother and a whole lot of other younger kids, in a run-down house. His mother has died and his father...... Well his father is "an awesome dude, who is in America and earns a lot of money and knows Michael Jackson."

video

For people who grew up in New Zealand, especially in the north island, they can relate to the movie instantly. Whereas for some others, it may  raise eyebrows that this movie is set in a so called 1st world country. But yes, even in New Zealand, there live people whose everyday lives are littered with violence, poverty and a sense of hopelessness. Drugs and gang face-offs are not uncommon. And when you grow up in that environment and manage to take a film about it after 20 odd years, how would you tell your story? You dont need florid dialogues or over expressed emotions. The more underdone it is, perhaps the better...

As I overheard the conversation between those two children across from me in the train, I smiled at this universal concept of "hero-worshipping" your dad unconditionally. As they grow older and realise that their father is a mere person, perhaps those kids may realise, it will become just as important to their father to forever be hero-worshipped by them. 


BOY. Worth seeing once. :-) http://www.boythemovie.co.nz/



Saturday, July 17, 2010

Humour



Once again, a spontaneous bout of gastroenteritis for your reading pleasure.

Isn't it amazing how humour varies from culture to culture whilst retaining its common denominators. I think, one of the real perks of growing up and functioning in a multi cultural environment is that you learn to appreciate the various senses of humour that are exhibited by different cultures.

Even on an individual level. Whenever you get to know some one, make a new friend, whatever.... notice their unique sense of humour. Laugh with them. It is an instant people bonder.

Especially when you are a doctor perhaps, I think a sense of humour really helps in gaining some personal perspective. Yesterday, I walked into the hospital at 8.45 am. 15 minutes late. This being a rehabilitation ward, I wasn't too worried about that. I put my stethoscope around my neck and got out my pen from my bag, when a lady's voice blared quite calmly over the loudspeaker.

"ATTENTION PLEASE, ATTENTION PLEASE. CODE BLUE. SOUTH WARD."

I froze for 2 seconds. Then turned around and ran to the south ward. See, code blue means a medical emergency. As I passed by another ward, I could see there were other doctors rushing towards me with a view to going to the south ward.

I got there to see an old man sprawled onto the ground. He was struggling to breathe. Eyes rolled up. There were already a lot of people there. One of the doctors was holding him in the "recovery" position. This means the patient is lying on his side so that in case he was choking or vomiting, the contents come out of his mouth more easily than when he is lying on his back. (gravity will otherwise push the vomitus back into the throat and obstruct his airway).


I wasn't too sure what the circumstances of the collapse was. But I could clearly see that there was respiratory effort. I saw that one of the doctors confirmed that he had a pulse. So immediately, I realised that this was NOT a cardiac arrest. This was probably some one who has choked on his morning breakfast and needs securing of his airway.

Confused as to why this wasn't already done, I rushed in, held his head, put my index finger into his mouth and did a sweeping motion until a big chunk of masticated food came out. Then I yelled, "SUCTION please". A nurse stumbled about and got me a suction tube. This is basically a plastic tube with a vacuum at its end that helps suck out anything that is down the throat or larynx. I sucked out some more gunk. He was still unconscious.

Some one put in a gaddell's airway and put a bag mask over his nose and mouth. I whipped out my stethoscope and listened over his anterior chest wall. I could hear that there was air entry bilaterally -  oxygen was getting into both his lungs. Oxygen saturation came up to a 100%. His BP returned as 152/74.  I quickly gained IV access, took some blood off for analysis and handed this over to another doctor. Meanwhile the ambulance had arrived to take the patient to the acute hospital.

2 minutes later, I exhaled slowly as I washed the blood off my hands. As i dried my hands with a paper towel, I glanced across the room to see a little old lady in the corner staring with a blank look. Nobody was near her. I somehow got the feeling that she was his wife. I walked towards her and stopped.

"Mrs Johnson?"
"y.. yes.." she stammered.
"Mrs Johnson, my name is Dr. Kumanan. Your husband seems to have choked on his food. It's all okay now, he just needs to go the main hospital, and be observed for sometime. Alright?" I said, with as much understatement as I could possibly muster. (This man probably started walking towards the white light a good 2 minutes before I even got to the scene.)

She swallowed and composed herself.
"Thank You doctor for talking to me. Choked on his food did he? Choked on his food. Right. Well thats clever isn't it. What an OUTRAGEOUS way to meet your end, god forbid. Oh that STUPID STUPID man...", she said fighting back tears, as the paramedics took him past us in a stetcher.

I stared at her with absolute disbelief for 1 second, hardly able to contain my laughter. Then I put my hands in my pockets, and walked away towards my ward, smiling and shaking my head.

The time was 9.10 AM.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sense and sensibility

Over the last 2 years, I have done an insane amount of travelling. At the age of 24, 25, that WILL have profound effects on your psyche, because it is still being moulded. I would like to think that this moulding happens throughout your life, but I am going to have to accept that it happens more easily now.

I have never actually planned a set future for myself when I was younger. How boring. Not that I am wandering aimlessly to wherever life takes me, and I have never failed to honour commitments that I have made, nor am I planning to. But life has taught me that too strict a plan of action is totally pointless. When you end up somewhere comfortable several years from now on, (I mean mentally, financially, physically), you want to KNOW that you know what is on the other side. or other SIDES rather. Know what else is out there. You should feel the contentment that you have been there and done some of that. AND NOT FORGET your experiences.We always remember things that are important to us, whether our memory is sharp or not so sharp ;-). Well may be that's just an expectation that I set for myself.

I have been privileged to spend a lot of time in India over the last 2 years. I know now that that is always going to be the case from now onwards.  I have made good friends, strengthened some old friendships by several several notches. Met different people. Had some diverse conversations with them. I have learnt to value the right people and the right ideas. I have strengthened bonds and established contacts. Bla Bla..

I have shared jokes and chats about the local politics in India with acquaintances and new friends. I have met the poorest of  poor patients and have understood what their daily lives are about. Their values. Their perspectives. I have travelled the streets and roads of India as one among the irritating traffic of two wheelers and cars, staring at banners and slogans and temples and rituals. For someone referred to dismissively by some as an NRI, I know that I know India better than many locals ever would. ;-)

I pretty much managed to travel ALL over New Zealand!!  From Auckland to Dunedin. To Invercargill to Stewart Island. I have had many interesting experiences studying, working, and just living there. Some tough challenging ones when working in the wards and in an academic environment. Some heartening ones when a patient or family member or even a staff member appreciates your work. I have enjoyed tranquil beautiful environments. I have formed an amazing group of friends and no matter what I say, the positive impacts they have had on my life, wherever they are, cant be put in words....

All this, whilst obtaining a medical degree, working full time as a doctor and now I am in Melbourne. And melbourne or no melbourne, new experiences await.

This is just MY LIFE. That's just how its been.  I am just stating the facts with a shrug with no superlatives involved.   

ONTOLOGY is the philosophical study of existence, being or reality in general. There is a concept called ontological reciprocity, which suggests that we all try to find meaning for our existence in OTHER PEOPLE. We are most content when they hear our stories and understand them. We find meaning for our existence in other people's understanding of ourselves. I completely agree actually.

But I tell you what. just a thought i guess. How can I share all these experiences in a sensible way with any one person. If I do so, can I expect that someone would relate to each and every one of them personally. Is this a suitable "measuring scale" to determine how much some one knows me or will come to know me? I mean, even I wouldn't have digested all these things fully!! let alone be able to incorporate all these things into my projected personality at any one time. :-D

1. It is impossible
2. It is NOT necessary. I would even go to say that it is a waste of time to even have that expectation. And I am not speaking for just myself.

See what seems to make sense to me is this: The paramount factor determining the success of a relationship, e.g. a marriage, is NOT just some perceived similarity in personalities or similarities in life experiences. It is merely understanding, appreciation, sharing and acceptance of each other's DIFFERENCES, because when you GENUINELY get to that stage with someone, you can pretty much safely take your similarites for granted :-). It is that rare.

To maintain your sense and sensibilities when you have so much to tell, but so few to listen.... Ahh thank god for blogs. ;-)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A state of perennial restlessness

If you ask me what is the MOST precious thing in this whole world, I will answer you without batting an eyelid - "Time".
Not just in terms of achieving your career goals/financial goals or other insignificant nonsense like that. (  ;-)  )
But from a very broad sense.

Do you ever go through times when you are hopelessly restless and you can't exactly pinpoint why? Like every second of your life seems like "overtime"?
When you think every 6 hours, "shit, is this even worth it?"

It is a crappy feeling.
In a way it is good if you CANT do anything about it. You can easily tell yourself that this is it. You gotta do this for a while; You dont have a choice.

BUT...

What if you had all the power in the world. To do anything you wanted. Be wherever you wanted to be. But just that you don't know exactly WHAT this place is...
And somehow end up doing some default thing for the sake of it.

That will be like my WORST nightmare. Hope that never gets realised. Under any context.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ponniyin Selvan

முன்பு கூறியவாறு, (பல நாட்கள் தள்ளிப்போகிவிட்ட) பொன்னியின் செல்வன் பற்றிய ஆய்வு, இதோ.

நினைவு தெரிந்த வரை, நான் பல முறைகள்  நம் நாட்டு வரலாற்றை, சரித்திரத்தை பற்றி கற்பனை செய்திருக்கிறேன். ஒரு 2000 வருடங்களுக்கு முன்னர் எப்படி எல்லாம் மக்கள் இருந்திருப்பார்கள். அவர்கள் அன்றாட வாழ்க்கையில் எதற்கு முக்கியத்துவம் கொடுத்திருப்பார்கள், எதனை சிறப்பாக கொண்டாடியிருப்பார்கள். அரசியல், மன்னராட்சிகள்  எல்லாம் எப்படி இருந்திருக்கும்.....
நம் நாடு என்றால் தமிழ் நாடு, இந்தியா மற்றும் இல்லை, பொதுவாகவே உலக வரலாற்றில், மக்கள் வரலாற்றில்  ஒரு ஈர்ப்பு.....

நடுங்கும் பனிக்காலத்தில்  மிளகு ரசம் போல் இருந்தது, இந்த ஆர்வத்திற்கு, கற்பனைக்கு பொன்னியின் செல்வன்.
 
ஏறத்தாழ கி.பி. 1000. தென்னிந்திய மக்கள் வரலாற்றில் ஒரு பொற்காலம். வட இந்தியா, துருக்கியர் மற்றும் பாரசீக நாட்டு படைகளிடம் சூறையாட பட்டு வந்த அதே நேரத்தில் தென்னிந்தியாவில் மக்கள் மாபெரும் கோவில்களை எழுப்பி சைவ,வைணவ பிரிவுகள் பிரகாசித்த நேரம். தமிழர்களின் பெருமைக்குரிய புலிக்கொடி தமிழகத்திலும்
ஈழத்திலும் பறந்த  நேரம். குலம் தாழ்ச்சி உயர்ச்சி பெரிதும் இல்லாமல் தமிழர் என்ற அடையாளம் தழைத்தொழுங்கிய  காலம்.......... அப்படி பட்ட காலத்தில் ஒரு நாளில் தொடங்குகிறது கதை.

நான் அந்த புத்தகத்தில் முதலில் படித்த ஒரு சில வரிகளிலேயே, எழுத்தாளரின் கற்பனை வடிவத்தை வியந்தேன்.  முதல் இரண்டு மூன்று பக்கங்கள் முழுதும் ஒரு குதிரை வீரன் தான் செல்லும் பாதையில், சோழ நாட்டில் அன்றாட காணப்படும் கிராமப்புரக்காட்சியின் விவரிப்பு. எனக்கு முன்னர் யாரோ ஓவியம் தீட்டினார் போன்று இருந்தது... அந்த குதிரை வீரன் தான் கதாநாயகன். ஒரு அருமையான பாத்திரம். மன்னர் குலத்தில் பிறக்கவில்லை. ஆனால் வீரம் மிகுந்தவன். அரசியல் தந்திரங்கள் அறிந்தவனில்லை. ஆனால் விவேகம் மிக்கவன். ஒரு இளமை ததும்பும் நகைச்சுவை தன்மை. தலை கணமே இல்லாத ஒரு இயல்பான பண்பு. எல்லாத்திற்கும்  மேல் ஒரு உண்மையான நண்பன்.
வந்தியத்தேவன் வல்லவரையன் என்பது அவன் பெயர்.

வந்தியத்தேவனின் பயணம், அவன் எதிர்கொள்ளும் சம்பவங்கள் எல்லாம்  ஒரு பக்கம் தொடர, அருள்மொழிவர்மனின் (பிற் காலத்தில் ராஜ ராஜ சோழன்) கண்போக்கில் இருந்து ஓடுகிறது கதையின் வேறு சில பாகங்கள்.  19 வயது வாலிபனாயிருப்பினும்  ஈழத்தில் முற்றுகை இட்டிருக்கும் படைத்தளபதி. சோழ நாட்டு இளவரசன். மக்கள் மற்றும் வீரர்கள் போற்றும் ஓர் அரிய  முகக்கலையும் கம்பீரமும் தானாக அமைந்திருந்த  தலைவன்.

கதை பாதிக்கு மேல் ஓடிவிட்ட பின்னரே வந்தியதேவனும் அருள் மொழி வர்மனும் சந்திக்கின்றனர். நண்பர்களாக இல்லை, இரண்டு பேரும் சந்தர்ப்பத்தின் படி சண்டையிட வேண்டிய சூழ்நிலை!! வந்தியத்தேவன் தோற்கிறான். ஆனால் சில நிமிடங்களே ஆன அந்த வாட்போர் மூலம் அருள்மொழி வர்மனின் நட்பை வெல்கிறான்......

பொன்னியின் செல்வன் ஒரு காதல் கதையும் கூட. அருள்மொழி வர்மன் மற்றும் வானதியின் கபடம் இல்லா, முற்றிலும் நம்பக்கூடிய  காதல்.. அவன் முதன்முதலில் வானதியை சந்தித்தது. பிற்காலத்தில் ராஜேந்திர சோழனின் தாயாகப்போகிறவள்  என்பதை ஒரு ஜோசியகாரன் அவளுக்கு சொல்லாமல் சொல்ல, வானதியின் வியப்பு. அவள் தோழியின் கிண்டல்...

A Beautiful sense of omniscience and foreboding...

அதே சமயம் பூங்குழலி என்னும் அர்ச்சகர் மகளான சோழ நாட்டுப்பெண். அவளுடைய தைரியம். நகைச்சுவை தன்மை. நாட்டுப்பற்று. ராஜ ராஜ சோழன் மீது அவள் கொண்ட குழப்பம் மிகுந்த காதல்....

இந்த சூழ்நிலையில், வேற்று நாட்டு சக்திகள், உள் மற்றும்  வெளித்தர சூழ்ச்சிகள், அபாயம் கலந்த தடங்கல்கள் எல்லாவற்றையும் மீறி, பொன்னியின் செல்வனான அருள்மொழிவர்மன் எவ்வாறு ராஜ ராஜ சோழனாக முடிசூடுகிறான் என்பதே கதை......

Read it! என்னமோ எனக்கு  பிடித்திருந்தது :)
Hardly what you would call "New age", but a special genre nonetheless.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Invictus

I watched the movie Invictus yesterday. Some of you might know that this is a newish movie, directed by Clint Eastwood and has Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in the lead.

A movie about South Africa's rugby world cup victory in 1995.

Great film!

This entry is not about the "plot" of the film. We already know what happens. The damned springboks beat the All blacks. But this movie is about the undercurrents surrounding that famous victory for the boks.

South Africa to me has been a very perplexing country. Fascinating. The first memory of South Africa for me was one of my uncles moving there to expand his career. The second memory of South Africa is it being an African country with white cricket players. (HUH?!). Various other memories of South Africa. Mainly concerning rugby matches in the Trinations series.

But the history of South Africa is unique. Apartheid (Translating to blatant racism and second class citizenship based on race), only ended in South Africa in the early 1990's as an OFFICIAL national policy. The centrestone of this being Nelson Mandela, who needs no introduction.
South Africa is in someways like India. Royalty and Poverty exist side by side. It has some of the flashest malls and city centers and yet has the highest per capita incidence of HIV. It is called the rainbow nation for no slight reason. It IS really a country of all races and colours.

The story revolves around the weak Springbok rugby team, when Nelson Mandela was elected their first black president in 1994. It was a time, of  great uncertainty perhaps, for the white afrikaners of South Africa. Many feared a violent backlash. Many feared that the situation will deteriorate into like what has happened in Zimbabwe.
The film portrays Nelson Mandela as the crafty as well as very foresighted and truly genuine politician and statesman that he is. He very correctly foresaw that for South Africa's democracy to succeed, harmony between whites and blacks was paramount. He saw the rugby world cup of 1995, which was hosted by South Africa as a great opportunity to make a start on this.

He encouraged, inspired the springboks to transform from an average team to the one that beat the All Blacks in that grand final in front of a huge crowd in Durban. And in the process won the hearts of all South Africans.

Morgan Freeman in my opinion is one of the great actors of our time. He plays the part of Nelson Mandela. There is simply no other person more eligible for the part. And Clint Eastwood. He's making some really great films, that guy.....

To end with, here is the poem, which gives the movie its title. Which kept Mandela believing. Which will keep you believing too.



Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Music

When I was about 8 years old, I got signed up for a carnatic violin class. My teacher was a lovely person called Mohana akka. She used to come to our home in a rural town and teach me. Apparently, I was pretty good. Picked it up well. So I am told even now by her. Despite breaking the strings at least 10 times with my overenthusiastic approach. (It's not a good sound when you go hard on the violin).

But at that age, it will be fallacy to even contemplate that one can appreciate music for what it truly is. I certainly did not then. But it did not take me very long to understand that music is something that sets the human race apart. And something that binds us as a whole.

Music adds flavour to our thoughts, our moods, our perspectives. Its a really nice feeling when you find a piece of music that you like or relate to. It almost..... reinforces your state of mind to yourself. Validates it. Makes you LIVE it that bit more.

The first piece of music that I drew something from, was "Lose yourself" from the 8 mile sound track, released 2003. I still remember going for a run in my hostel treadmill, this song playing on the speakers from the radio.
"Look....If you had... one shot... one opportunity, to seize everything that you ve ever wanted...would you capture it.. or let it slip.."
2 weeks later was my first health sciences exam -  Chemistry113. I got 97%.
:-D Now, whether eminem had anything to do with that or not......without going into nostalgic details, that setting was far beyond challenging myself just academically...

There are some pieces of music, that would make you feel as if you can do anything you want to. Feel Powerful. Another such song was the title song from the hindi film Dum, which I happened to see in my second or third year of college. (Nothing too special about it... I just happen to like that song.)

Music is a powerful medium of expression. A good song is just as inspiring to a mass as a powerful speech. Looking back at history, many freedom movements have invariably used songs and music to convey an idea, to inspire people, to instill patriotism, pride.
And what about religion. That most perplexing human creation. Whether I am cynical or not about religion, devotion to God, can be no better conveyed than through music. This is universal. I have been to several catholic masses, where songs in praise of Jesus Christ are seriously the best aspect of them.  But, this is especially so in the hindu religion. I dont need to give examples, but carnatic music and folk music are basically part and parcel of the worshipping rituals of South India. Aspects of my culture, that certainly invoke fondness...

And last but not the least, I am going to feel free to deliberately leave out discussing music being a medium of expression and communication of love. Because this post will then turn to custard ;-)

 Having never been a music performer myself, I had a few opportunities in my university and intern years to perform. Being in New Zealand, music was the easiest and most entertaining way to share the rich subcontinental culture with people from different backgrounds. For which I am most grateful, and I hope I get other opportunities.

This is hardly a sophisticated post. The impact of music in human culture cannot be summarised in a blog. May be in a particularly good PhD thesis. So having gabbed on, how lucky are we to live in an age, where good music is so easily accessible. But is there any substitute to catching a tune unexpectedly from someone singing to themselves. Unaware and oblivious to who was listening. Imperfect, incomplete but beautiful nonetheless...

I think not mate... I think not.