Sunday, September 12, 2010

Under the rubble

Dark heavy clouds
Surround me up close
Thunderous steps
Bellowing applause

My heart beats faster
Thrill palpable
Lungs choke on my throat
Chest under rubble

What was it, an earthquake
a landslide, a wall
That fell on my vision
Smile, and my pride tall

Will I ever get out
Will there be a lending hand
Can I ever push away these rocks
Ever seen the coloured band

Sunday, May 16, 2010

through the ages

I was seven
When I dreamt of this place
Far from my reality
Entrenched in future faze

A helping hand
Radiant smile glowing face
Hope served on breakfast platter
To ill, weary, sick and lifeless

I was seventeen then
When I dreamt of this space
Of fragrant roses and bright bougainvillea
Adorning the soft grass in my front gaze

Romance, a man of thinking and integrity
Toothless smiles in cherubic faces filling my days
Inane endless tell me whys
Retrieving my father's answers to my quests

I am to be twenty seven now
Living that dream but just a trace
A bit lost in the wilderness I find myself to be
Second thoughts, revisions, in a daze

And then I realize I have them all
My education, an honorable man, a loving family, designed my way
Cruising pleasantly with a dream distinct
Reality and aspirations will merge, I have determined

Monday, May 3, 2010

no moon day

sparks fly
tiny stars
eye lights
glimmer afar

sinking heart
affect incongruent
liar epitaph

give me rhythm
give me space
give me music
to save myself from disgrace

storm inside
i cannot feel
know not see not
what's right for me

crystals fall
a plea to stay
to strive righteous
rewrite the play.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Delayed gratification

I have never thought of myself as being indecisive, ambiguous, or confused. Well, definitely not about major decisions in my life. (That the trivial mundane simple daily chores pose a Herculean task to me, is, well a story for another day). Taking up studies in medicine and then pursuing a seemingly-misdirected attempt at a degree in epidemiology have been well-thought, well-planned, and well-weighed agendas that have over time proved worthy in my service. Yes, of course, there are those momentary lapses of 'what if(s)', but these transgressions of resolute are permissible and well within limits.

Then,what am I talking about now? I have always wanted to define my work in the field of health. That is something I have been absolutely sure of. I worked my way into a place in medical school that I earned for sheer hard work and dedication in preparation, topped with a little luck - what is popularly known as the 'merit seat'. I mention luck too, as I am sure there were many peers who similarly worked hard and lost out to factors intangible and inexplicable. Medical school brought me face to face with people - and it was this aspect of medicine that I loved. The feeling of bringing health to the ill, of saying a comforting word and lending a helping hand was honestly the reason I took to medicine.

Yet, behind this humane face, there is so much competition and the pressures of doing well, examining and reaching a decent diagnosis and treating the ill can indeed be overwhelming. I was surely overcome by fear of not being up to the mark. And in my growing disenchantment with my own capabilities as a doctor, I found solace in a field where 'we save million lives at a time' - epidemiology and biostatistics.

The daughter of an engineer and a mathematician that I was, I was always encouraged to love the rule of numbers and figures. Sometimes, I surmise, my act of entering a non-mathematical field was an act of rebelliousness against my parents. Little did I know how mathematics would continue to haunt me years later. I still marvel at how population genetics and genetic variation are fundamentally explained by the one equation from my 7th Std algebra class by Mrs Sati Purushottaman - a^2 + 2ab + b^2. How diagnosing a case is an individualized method of hypothesis generation, and how exploratory data analysis helps us identify patterns of characteristics in groups of people and how tweaking numbers and equations helps us define associations and causation such as smoking and lung cancer, identify and radically institute treatment measures such as that seen in the SARS epidemic or more recently the influenza pandemic in 2009. I also learnt how numbers can be manipulated in clinical trials and how vigilance can force reversal and recall of drugs after they were marketed. It was because of rigorous experiments on a large scale that gave impetus to local governments to create policies banning smoking in public places and especially in closed environments. But there is so much that goes on in the background of 'research', that my earlier dismissive notion of epidemiology has largely been corrected and I am humbled. Health policy, treatment, prevention, health promotion, natural history of disease, causes - I saw it all happening during my sojourn in epidemiology.

Then why now the thought of going back to clinical individual medicine? I am not frustrated, nor do I find the lack of a challenge. Logistically, I do feel my experience as a clinician will bring more to the table than just as a medical student - only because I do not have hard core statistical background, and especially because I regret neglecting calculus in high school. (Yes amma - you were right!). But now, I truly miss talking to patients, I miss learning from them. I have learnt that it is okay to make mistakes, and that all doctors kill people before they start saving lives. Yes, even in clinical medicine, we are allowed a few mistakes - as long as we recover from them, learn from then and make sincere attempts to never repeat them. As scary as it sounds, this is probably why our careers are renamed our 'practice'.

I am oft asked about the reason for my digression. These are manifold, some of them I do not understand too well myself. And then in times like these, I close my eyes and go back in time to three well-etched memories. One in my 3rd of medical school, talking to two of my dearest friends and confidants while strolling around our campus; an earlier memory that occurred a year earlier of me talking to one of those two friends in my room; and the oldest one, of an unsent letter to my parents and sister, that was discovered by my dear grandpa. And the common thread connecting these incidents was the desire to study populations to make inferences about clinical medicine, to be involved in disseminating the technology involved in this process, and to devote some of my time in the service of those ill and to make their illness disappear, improve or at the very least bearable.

I always knew I wanted to marry mathematics to biology, and in this I was fairly inspired by a close cousin who uses mathematics to model how drugs affect cells in the body. At the school of public health, I went through a phase of low morale that kept me from believing in myself. My plan was to get into a residency program next year and start running at full steam. Somewhere, I started to doubt my own abilities as a doctor, as a healer. I reached a nadir, and then when there was no lower to go, I started climbing up. With so much support from those closely associated with me, I have begun to realize that I was consumed with fear of uncertainty and with time and experience, my skills as a doctor will hone and fine tune themselves. I have finally begun to believe in myself, and I want to give myself a second chance with this attempt at my residency.

i do not want to rush into it, and then be overwhelmed by the whole process. I would rather take slow but sure steps. When I think about the big picture, I realize how there are some loose ends that I need to tie up, before I plunge three years of my life into the oblivion of residency. One more year, I sigh. And then think, one year, where I can firmly carve out the next five years of my life. (And work on enlisting the support of friends, confidants, family, and some special people in planning and espousing my dream).

I see myself coming back to me. I have begun to feel happier with the person I am. One year for a life long dream. A gift to myself with the promise of delayed gratification. I think, it is worth it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

skewed love distribution

i was always in love with me, as loving oneself should be
a living joy fueling my run, indulging in my own fantasy

i could adorn myself with the golden sun and moon silver
pitter patter drops, intoxicating the senses, dancing in a mad fever

secretly i craved to be an equality, even thought aloud about it
a simultaneous equation you had to solve, a statistically significant hit

i am baffled even today, the start of the whirlwind
who are you, where are you from, the merging of reality and dreams blurred

i love myself still, but now in my love i think of you too
surreptitiously in my consciousness, sanity has gone askew

my moods unleashed, floodgates of my thoughts opened to your gauge
but four full moons later, virtual loneliness leads to blues plague

so as i sit and sulk over a conversation not had this evening, smile downslope
of not being able to enjoy the bald baritone, getting high on your dope, i hope

you see the skewness of my love distribution and its exponential serial correlation
the mean and mode sky high when we're together, median cruising on consolidation

expression to the nines, didn't cupid forewarn
reactions and over reactions, jocund and then some forlorn

i am an idiot sometimes, as you can see
but i am sure you'll cope with it and still love me

Budding flower

Go away, cried petulantly, said
But a large bud, I am, so let me be so,
You think I am a small flower, then pray explain
Why after so long, the petals, still refuse to grow colour

I dream of reaching the sky so high
Alright, at the least, of shining aloud
Carving my own niche, is what I want
A bright spot in a corner or in a bright crowd

My aspirations are my own design, I know
Crafting them I ought to, with my own hands
Where should I face to grow more, yet not wither
A flop show at the end of it all, I fear.

Hey! a small flower you are, not the bud you’d like to be
You know your curve to your flower, your type, your face, your direction
Don’t look backward, don’t lean too ahead, steadfast in your expression
Just follow your instinct and your glorious passion.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Staring at all the snow outside, I wondered if I should think of this cold chalky ice as resilient in its refusal to melt in the warmth of the sun or as basking in the golden sun. Either way, that was a positive win-win thought. So there.

We learn everyday, from people, from experiences. I, then, stop to think of how our earliest ideas of life and living must have been drawn from nature. Men and women have amazingly still not exhausted of writing paeans to that dogged human spirit that will not fall in the face of adversity. How often do we hear our wizened wise grandparents and admittedly (alas, with reluctance) more experienced parents reigning us with good ol' metaphors about the sun rising after sun set, that daybreak will always come after a long dark new moon night. The silver lining under the dark clouds, the lull before the storm, the list is quite endless.

Seasons come, seasons go. We learn to weather the storms and brave the heat with temerity that springs from the abyss of helplessness. As I walked on the ice, shivering in the cold despite being under the many layers, I kept thinking of my favourite season and what season I'd like to be. I know it seems inconsequential and reeks of intellectual arrogance, yet as I sit down to write after so long, I decided to essay my thoughts on a seemingly abstract subject. Yet, abstract it is not.

I have always thought of the rains as my favorite season. The soft fall of the first drizzle giving way to the pitter-patter of raindrops on tinned roofs, and the sweet smell of wet mud on the first day of the monsoon, with the dream of a peacock spreading its feathers in a beautiful dance lurking in my mind, is probably a favourite moment I happily share with many others. Of course, the gustatory and olfactory lust for chai and pakodas and the childlike delight at the announcement of holiday after a heavy bout of rainfall are events that I shall continue to crave. Then came 26th July 2006 when I first saw what it meant for the poor and less fortunate to be caught in mad showers. Wading through dirty waters, it was for the first time, that I truly understood why floods were truly distressing. Living on the third floor I escaped the misery.

So while rains in moderation bring lushness, bounty and prosperity, the rains in fury can spell destruction, helplessness and loss. Not a good metaphor for me. Moreover, Baltimore rains have made me cry. The gloomy cloudy weather leading to light showers that leave one sticky and icky and cranky, are annoying to say the least. Considering that we have winter in varying degrees of severity for nearly three quarters of the year, to suffer wet cold damp weather is something I truly dread. So after a quarter of a lifetime loving the rains, I have decided that the rains are no longer my favorite weather.

I expounded on the rains as they would have possibly been my instantaneous impulsive erstwhile answer. Now I think about harsh summers in India that we would willingly suffer a thousand deaths to win respite from, and then I think of just last April, I would look to skies asking for divine intervention in bringing in an early summer. Summer in Baltimore was a beautiful experience. Beginning with the lovely white cherry blossoms in early spring, summer arrived later than usual. But once it settled in, the joy of seeing life abound was unparalleled. Trees got green, people started coming out of their closeted residences. Joggers, dog-walkers, lovers, book-lovers, open-air theaters, friends, picnics, parties, fairs, camps, life seemed to be straight out of Noddy-land. It was beautiful. Yet, come August, the sun went into a bad mood and burnt our skin, left us tired and withered.

I can obviously go on extolling the virtues and dithering over the inconveniences of winters, yet I think I will stop here. For I realize, that it is true that nothing is permanent. One gives us respite from the previous weather, peaks into lovely climes, and degenerates into extreme conditions leading to the next. I remember reading about this somewhere, that we need to know to live, we learn by the time we are five. And if we then need inspiration, I have found that my richest sources were metaphors derived from life around me. And how much more beautiful can it get, that no matter where I go on this planet, nature throws similar instances for me to find solace and comfort in familiar seasons and reasons. Mother and nature give me the same advice, "it's all about attaining equanimity, my child!".

I know that this exercise in writing was seemingly futile, as we all know about this. It seems redundant and irritatingly so that I might chose to bleat the old tune. I needed this dose. Needed to do this for myself. As I do for every blog of mine. Seasons will come, seasons will go. But I will stand right there, strong, stubborn, adamant, unshaken.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Inertia grips me
Holding my fingers tight
Tying down my body
Invisible threads to the couch
My face motionless, the smile not even a slight

I can't get up
I can't stand
But the scariest of them all
I can't work or think.
And this, the erstwhile workaholic can't withstand