Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Whose fault is it??

The last week was a very eventful eye opener. I realized for the first time that my husband too could have health problems. Touch wood he does not have hypertension or blood sugar. He has maintained his weight for the past 37 years and it has not crossed sixty kilograms ever. So I was naturally under the impression that with all the luxury ailments affecting me I was the one who needed to be enquired after and pampered. So, Imagine my shock when on our return from our morning walk, he, who was opening the door of our flat suddenly fell down without a warning and remained unconscious for... well, may be a minute. He had hurt the back of his skull and blood was trickling down. I was just a few steps behind him and when I rushed to him his eyes were upturned for a moment and even when he opened them he did not seem to recognize me. He smiled and asked whether it was six o’ clock already. Only when I shook him up did he remember that we had returned from our walk and that he had fallen down. He claims that he was fine when we climbed up and attributes his fall to gas in the stomach. I have no doubt that he was fine when we were returning since he was talking of Kalmadi and Kanimozhi and was indulging in his favorite Congress bashing on our way back. His 5’ 7” frame falling like a tree that is felled in one stroke, shocked me to the extent that I kept brooding over our future in Jamshedpur. In this otherwise pleasant city, medical facility and connectivity are not the best. My children in distant shores may not reach immediately even if they tried and what if one of us needed special medical attention? Those who wish to help us among our friends may not be able to move us out if the situation so demanded.

These were questions that kept haunting me when a second incidence shook me for a second time in the week. Relaxing during summer vacations was not destined for me I suppose. A neighbor, who lives in the floor above ours, suddenly took ill. She perhaps had a heat stroke since she spoke of having attended a house warming the previous afternoon. It was about 10:30 in the morning when we heard someone banging her door. We could hear her wailing from within. The door was bolted and she could not open it. My first thought was whether she had burnt herself. Soon there were four of us trying to coax her to open the door and all that the helpless woman could do was to scream incoherently. Thank God for the second rate material used, the door gave way and we entered. The lady had managed to wrap a night gown over her body and was writhing on the floor screaming like an animal in pain. It took us a while to understand that she was asking for glucose water. Her son was sent for and we rushed her to the hospital where she was administered glucose intravenously. She had loose motions in the morning and was severely dehydrated. She complained of severe chest pain too. Once she was in the hands of doctors, we relaxed. She is a widow having lost her husband when her son was seven years old. The boy is now 25 and is yet to find a suitable job. He is simple and naive unlike the street smart youngsters one sees these days. Luckily her son’s former tuition master is like family to them and she managed to ring him up for help. She is now better and has been discharged from hospital.

As if this was not enough a third incident had to take place that depressed me more than the other two. Mr. S mentioned in this post of mine had met with an accident a few days ago and the family planned to take him to Kolkata for further treatment. His daughter and son were sent for. The daughter works in Kolkata and had brought an uncle along to help her escort her father back. An auto - rickshaw had been sent for and they were about to leave when their son picked up a quarrel with his sister. Both parents were helpless when the boy flew into a rage and threatened to throttle the girl to death. The pleadings of the mother fell on deaf ears he just would not let go. The uncle finally managed to pacify him and gently took the father down. The mother also accompanied them but the boy stayed back threatening to burn the house down and he sounded as if he would do it. We could hear him scream for the next hour and cool down later.

These incidents indicate how helpless parents have become. We complain about not having any of our children in India but are those that have children at accessible distances any better? The boy mentioned in the third incident was my son’s play mate and grew up like any of the other children of his age. But the temper tantrums that I had earlier attributed to teen troubles persist even now. He is around thirty years old and instead of being a support to his younger sister is yet to take up family responsibility. I can imagine how helpless his parents must feel.

Society too has changed. The widow had to ring up her son’s tuition master living around two kilometers away for help. This only shows the kind of isolated lives we lead. Social visits have become a thing of the past. Neighbors do not share their problems with each other. It was my servant who told me that Mr. S who was on a two wheeler had been hit by a speeding vehicle and has sustained a head injury. Were it not for her information I might have taken show of temper as the regular thing that happened in households with a hot headed son. I do wonder whether the senior citizen’s home would be a better alternative to deal with the aloofness that has become part of society?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Of this and that........

I’ve been a declared diabetic since the past 10 years and hypertensive since the past 12 years. Popping pills is something I’ve never liked but these health conditions do not allow even a day’s break from pill popping. I feel a little depressed at the thought of spending a fortune on pills and potions. Yes if I add the massage oil I apply and ayurvedic medicines I swallow for my arthritis and I think I spend a neat 1000 rupees per month to maintain my health. When I feel low I crib about these things, worry about the load my liver and kidneys take and wonder when the two will revolt. I know that they will sooner or later.

Apart from popping pills these ‘sukh rogs’(luxury ailments) prevent me from consuming food of any kind without feeling guilty and gluttonous. No sugar and minimum starch for my diabetic condition. Less salt, almost no pickles and papads and minimum oil for my hypertensive constitution. And a low protein diet with no tamarind, uncooked tomatoes and minimum salad vegetables is recommended for my arthritis. Any vegetable that grows underground is to be avoided. I am not a great fan of potatoes but yam and coco yam roasted crisp in oil and consumed with Mysore rasam……. The thought makes my mouth water.

Is it fair? I feel like throwing caution out of the window and consuming my favorite south Indian items with plenty of tamarind and asafetida. But I am subjected to weekly grilling by my children and glares by my husband the moment I extend a hand towards the pickle bottle. Poor man, he offers to give up spicy food on my account.

Oh, no why would you do that? I say and I really mean it.

But take the case of Mr. Cha…. and his friend Mr. Cha…….. residing in our apartment complex, both nearing 80 years of age. I haven’t met a cuter pair of oldies. One is tall and thin while the other is short and though not stout appears so due to his short stature. On quite a few occasions the two would stop me on my way to college and ask to be dropped at the local market some half a kilometer from my area. There would be other occasions when I would see them getting into someone else’s car and invariably got down near the market. They would not have any shopping bag or any such stuff and I’d regularly spot their sons and daughters in law carrying loads of stuff from the car parking area to their house. I assumed that their children did the main marketing and the two of them went to purchase things for themselves and I mentioned this to an acquaintance.

”Don’t you know why they go to the market so often?” she asked. “It is an open secret in our complex.”

The point is that after college I hardly go down to join the chat session that the ladies in our complex indulge in, after preparing dinner, in the play area of our complex. So I have very little knowledge of what goes on in the complex. It seems Mr. Cha…. and his friend are both diabetic and their wives do not include sugar or items rich in starch in their menu. The two go to the market, visit a few grocery shops and ask for jaggery to taste. They find fault with its quality saying that it was a little sour or slightly salty and move on to the next shop. That way they would cover a few shops and return home. The following day they would visit a few hotels and sweet shops and ask for whatever sweets that was fresh saying that they would taste the items first and decide on what to buy for the family. That way their craving for sweets would be satisfied as would their desire to outwit their wives.

I wonder why the desire to eat forbidden food is the general rule. It actually began with Adam and Eve. I felt like crying the moment my doctor said that I would have to reduce consuming tamarind. The pani puri and dahi papdi that we occasionally ordered from the college canteen included uncooked tamarind pulp diluted as per requirement. This had to be stopped as would the spicy chutneys and Tambrahm delicacies like ‘vattal kuzhambu and milagu kuzhambu’. My friends offered their support and for the next few days we survived on sprouted lentils and roasted Bengal gram. I felt more deprived than them and we decided on a middle path. We’d order pani puris once a month and restrict it to two plates between the six of us. And I would be allowed just one piece – no cheating or making a sad face – I was warned. My children were better. They monitored on a weekly basis and that too over the phone. Out here I have at least 5 well wishers ready to give up their favorite food items for me. I am indeed touched.

Actually my doctor is not that particular about my following a strict diet chart. God bless the man! He allows me everything and anything I wish to eat as long as I restrict my consumption to one or two pieces per day of any one form of fruit/sweets/pickle or papad. Fair enough. I love fruits and would gladly restrict myself to a permitted level rather than eat in excess now and be denied fruits in any form later.

Eat what you want to, but in moderation is the message. I have taken up the challenge of losing at least 2 to 3 kilograms of weight in the next four weeks. I am trying out what my daughter describes as liquid diet. Like a little dalia mashed and mixed with dal, vegetables and diluted with rasam. Or well cooked oats blended with milk. Anything that I consume has to be diluted and gulped down. Do wish me luck since I need to lose not just 3 kilos but at least 10 kilos of weight. I am starting with 3 kilos since I want to set realistic targets.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Minding one's business.........

I often wonder why a person is good or bad. I mean the good ones really unnerve me. They see goodness in all things unlike normal people like me who rave and rant on issues that do not in any way affect them. Did I call myself normal? There are several people who beg to differ. An incident that took place long back comes to my mind.

It was almost 12 or 13 years back that a girl known to me joined our college as an assistant having got the job on compassionate grounds. The VC had been pleased to appoint her and she was to join immediately. Around the time several of our colleagues were working on ad hoc basis and were expecting their services to be regularized. They felt that the appointment of people on compassionate grounds posed a threat to the process of regularization of their services and opposed her joining. I tried to reason that the two issues were different and the vice chancellor’s order had to be obeyed. The VC may take their protests to mean dissidence and terminate their services instead of regularizing it. The very colleagues who had worked with me for nearly 16 years turned against me and interpreted my stand as my interest in seeing the girl, who was known to me, join our college. Sensing antagonism my colleagues tried to take me away from the scene. I stood right there trying to reason with the group. I then had an experience of dealing with mob frenzy and it was not very pleasant. At the end of the day my blood pressure soared and I was on medical leave for the next 15 days.

Till today my well wishers recount the incidence and say that there was no reason for me to have gotten worked up. It was not my service that was at stake and it was not me that was protesting. Why then did I have to worry about a bunch of ad hoc employees who were being fooled into believing that the appointment of one person on compassionate grounds would affect their being regularized? It was an issue between them and the vice chancellor and I was nowhere in the picture. It was enough to have to worry about one’s family and children. Did the group for whom I allowed my blood pressure to soar even acknowledge that I was truly worried about them?

While I get disturbed at the thought of my colleagues misunderstanding my intention, my friends think otherwise. They reason that with time the group did understand that they were wrong. The girl, whose appointment they opposed, did join on the very day and it was only 5 years later that services of the group of ad hoc employees got regularized. And above all I learnt a valuable lesson – to set my limits and never to take health risks. These days I try – remember that I only try – not to overdo anything. I have my friends to pinch me hard when I try to play the moderator and to advice me to allow people to learn for themselves.

I do wonder if I was wrong in trying to reason with a group of frustrated employees or if they were better off left to themselves. Like many other questions this question has either no correct answer or more than one correct option.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The world watches...........

I consider myself a real dull person. Oh yes, I get ready and go to work and interact with my colleagues with whom I have managed to bond over time. But apart from that my social life is next to nil. Because of my arthritis I hardly climb down once I reach my 4th floor apartment unless absolutely essential. For one thing I cannot remember faces. The other day a woman with a familiar face greeted me on my way back to my apartment. She was standing beside a man who I recognized as my friend Poornima’s brother who perhaps lived in Bokaro (or was it Dhanbad??) and I promptly decided that the lady was his wife.

“Returning home??” I asked taking care not to mention the place as I was not sure. The woman looked a little confused and hurt. I promptly rectified my mistake and pointed out to the gentleman and said –

“I meant him.”

“Yeah, my sister in law’s family is returning to Bokaro (Aha, I was not too far off the mark). I’ve come to see them off.”

I still could not place her however hard I tried. I decided to pretend that I was getting late for work and waved a hasty good bye and went home.

I spent the entire day trying to figure out who the woman was. I then remembered. She was the woman who’d keep peeping out of her bedroom window till the auto picked her daughter up for school. I’d spot the mother and daughter –one waiting for the auto and the other peeping from the window – during my morning walk. This was the first time I was seeing her as a person and not a face. She would wave out from her window and I would wave back. It was really very bad of me not to remember.

But then I do have a problem with faces. I can look at a person and think ‘he/she looks so much like X,Y or Z’. Only much later would I realize that it was the person who I took him/her to be and not anyone like him/her. And I have at other times smiled at the wrong person and almost asked “Kaise ho??” (How are you) stopping just in the nick of time.

I am what I am but then others are also what they are. The other day I went for a seminar on medicinal plants and had to leave a little before the program got over. I was not very familiar with the place and had asked a friend to take me along in her car. While I waited for her to reverse her car a gentle man, who was also apparently leaving, approached the gate.

“Leaving?” he asked.

“Yes, the program is almost over.”

“Didn’t bhai saab (my husband) come?”

Who in the world could this person be?? I wondered.

“No” I tried to restrict my responses to monosyllables.

“Are there any flats available in Geetanjali (my apartment complex) for rent?” he asked.

So he knew where I lived. I started feeling uneasy. I still could not place him.

“You need to ask the society officials” I replied. “They have proper knowledge of these things.”

“Coming straight from college?” he was in no mood to leave me alone. “I don’t see your car anywhere. You drive an Alto don’t you?”

“I accompanied a friend. But please tell me, do we know each other?” I thought that he was perhaps an ex colleague of my husband.

To my relief he replied-

“No, ma’am, I don’t think you know me. I regularly visit Dr. Bhattamishra who lives in your area since he is my nephew. I’ve seen you often on your way to college. I’ve also seen you and bhai saab returning from your morning walk. I heard from Saswati (the doctor’s wife) that you work in a local college and that your husband makes and markets excellent masala. I too live close by. Aha, I see that your friend is waiting for you. See you then.”

Out of courtesy I asked if he needed to be dropped anywhere. He declined saying that he had his own vehicle and that he was waiting for his wife to come out.

I was shocked and it took me a while to become normal. Here I was, leading an insignificant existence and a total stranger seems to know so much about me. It was quite shocking. On my way back I tried to recall the man’s face. I could recall the conversation but his face was a blur in my memory. Recounting the entire conversation to my friend on my way home, I wondered aloud whether I’d be able to recognize him if I met him again.

My friend laughed heartily saying that she would have to report the incident to my husband and make sure if I remembered his face as well as the faces of our other friends.

“I am not that bad” I retorted.

Another incident that took place almost twenty years back came back to my mind. It was summertime and I had no access to internet booking. I went in person to the railway station to book tickets for my daughter and niece who had to return to Chennai after the summer vacations. The queue was long and I managed to reach the counter just a little before it closed down. My niece had not got her concession countersigned by the station master at Chennai so I had to buy a full ticket for her. It was then that I realized that I was short of money by about a hundred rupees. The dealing clerk asked me to come the following day which meant another long queue.

“Ma’am” said a voice behind me. “Take hundred rupees from me and buy the ticket. Why do you want to waste time tomorrow?”

He gave me the money and I bought the ticket without even turning around to see who the person was.

I waited for him to emerge and asked him as to how I may return his money. Would he give me his address?

“Aren’t you a teacherji who lives in Kadma?” he asked.

“Yes” I replied “but how do you know me?”

“I’ve seen you boarding the auto rickshaw right outside Vijay Bhandar in Kadma. I am the shop owner Ravi’s cousin and I often stop by to chat with him and to have a cup of tea with him. You can give this money to him”.

I was touched. A total stranger comes to my aid knowing nothing about me. I always felt that Vijay Bhandar was an expensive shop and almost never bought anything from there. Yet here was a person who offered the right kind of help even without my asking.

When I think of these incidents I also feel that one may not watch the world but the world watches and makes a mental note of each one of us. We are judged by what we are and not by who we happen to be.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ramblings of a grandma........

I was feeling very very ancient when I spotted two college students, a girl and a boy, in the park where we had taken our students for field work and almost asked them why they had bunked class.

'None of your business', whispered my colleague. 'They are not our students. We are here to get our students acquainted with the flora of Jharkhand. We are supposed to 'see' green not 'go' green'.

The students belonged to two other local colleges. From her uniform (BBA and BCA students have a dress code in Jamshedpur) I could understand that the girl was from another women's college in town. They were also probably having fun at our expense. That they displayed a fairly high degree of intimacy was bad enough but they would constantly check out if we were watching as our lab attendant pointed out. Well with realty shows and 'Rakhi ka swayamvar' flooding our channels I think gray haired grandmas like me ought to 'see no evil' in teenagers romancing in public places. The government spends a fortune on their education charging them Rs. 24/- per month and paying us UGC scales. Would they listen if we told them that it was through the tax payer's money that we were getting paid and their parents were probably tax payers that contributed towards it. As far as they were concerned, I was a jealous cat , that's it!!

Had it not been for the brutal killing of a college student by her spurned lover, I might have ignored the activities of teenagers as part of their getting acquainted with members of the opposite sex. I feel worried now. I wonder if I ought to do something to make them realize that their studies should be placed high on their priority list. I mean what should colleges and schools do to prevent such incidents from happening? I have written about it here. Our youngsters are too precious to lose. What should be our role as responsible citizen of India in the matter?