31 December 2015

SAMARITANS DO EXIST

Too often we all face a trust deficit when it comes to bus, rickshaw or taxi drivers in the context of lost/stolen valuables. Their ignominious reputation stems from the many larceny cases we’ve all been privy to and it effectively seals the predetermined notion: Say goodbye to your valuables once you lose it in any of these. The following incident completely decimated my prejudice;


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While travelling back from a friend’s wedding at a distant place, my friends dropped me off at a place relatively near my home which required me catching 2 buses for short distances. It was 5.30pm in the evening and the bus was teeming with people returning home after work, sweaty school children returning after tuition class or sports lessons. Not wanting to be late, I got into the first private bus that came my way and squeezed myself into the overly crammed vehicle. After taking the ticket, I managed to count the minutes and got down gladly when my transit bus stop arrived. Rummaging in my handbag for my purse, I found to my utter dismay that my precious commodity was missing. It had to be quite recent for just minutes before I had bought my ticket. To make matters worse, the bus had already long gone leaving me in a post-traumatic state with no immediate recollection of the bus name or colour. I had no money on me as everything was packed into the said purse so I trudged home walking in the wedding finery drawing queer looks both for my glittery attire and for my wan face. Once home, after facing a barrage of reprimands and recommendations, I blocked my 2 ATM cards online and went to the local police station to lodge a complaint. The policeman on duty courteously informed me that he has very little hope of retrieving it as I could not furnish him details of any sort regarding the bus except the route and the time of plying, for private buses are abundant in our city. Everyone around me including the policeman, friends and family absolutely ruled out any remote possibility of getting back the packed purse and lectured on the avarice of bus drivers and conductors in general.


At 8pm that night, my father got an unexpected call from an unknown number. To his utter surprise, the caller asked to identify my father’s nature of relationship with me and whether he knew anything was missing from my side. My father responded that he knew I had lost my purse and the caller thence identified himself as the driver of the bus in which I had lost my purse and asked my father to collect the purse from him the next day morning and we fixed on a time and place.


Arriving at the predesignated spot before the predetermined time, my father and I were on the lookout for a bus described by the magnanimous driver. A white and red bus screeched to a halt at the stop just then and a man in his fifties sitting in the driver seat began scanning the crowd energetically. Rightly guessing this was the bus and the man we were waiting for, we hurried over. The man looked quite intimidating with a bulging belly, beefy face and bloodshot eyes from a distance. As we drew near, he leaned out and handed over the purse to me. Overwhelmed by gratitude, I thanked him profusely and his kind eyes broke into a genuine smile of understanding and said, “I have a daughter of your age. She recently lost her purse and never got it back. I watch her everyday lamenting her badluck and scrambling to get her license and other cards back. I don’t want to see another daughter going through the same.” In the background I heard his conductor whisper to him to ask me for some ‘compensation’ for the trouble he took but the driver silenced him with a cuss and a glower. With another paternal smile and a wave, he revved up the engine and went his way.

As I looked into my purse, I found my entire contents intact – the odd notes amounting to nearly 3000 rupees, my driving license, 2 ATM cards, other membership cards and photos. Wondering how he managed to trace my father’s number, I finally understood that he came across my old college ID card which had my father listed as an Emergency contact.


I felt the prejudices I had so long ago harboured against drivers in general and recently bolstered by the negative anecdotes and opinions of others dissolving away as profound gratitude filled its place. Here was a man who could have easily misused the purse contents who safeguarded it and who painstakingly and intelligently unearthed my father’s number and strove to reunite it with its owner as soon as possible. All I know is that his name is Suresh and that he drives a bus named ‘Baselious’ plying in Kochi city. Let’s not let appearances and blind associations ever generalize the character of an individual. May such of his tribe increase!


2nd ARTICLE IN THE TIMES OF INDIA!

So 2015 gave me a second chance to wield my pen again and be featured in the Onam special cover of The Times of India on 17th August 2015. Thanks to the opportunity meted out by Sherene Joseph at the TOI whose offer I took up eagerly!

Now if you can manage to read the fine print from the image my article that I've posted in this blog, you can figure out that I've heavily referenced from the personal anecdotes my paternal grandfather penned down exclusively for me under the nostalgia section.



In fact, this was I think the last of his writings that ever saw a press. For within a fortnight after I had submitted my entry, my grandfather fell sick with a brief spell of illness that saw him being hospitalized for the first time in his astonishingly healthy and rigorous 86 years.

I remember the doused enthusiasm and blunted happiness with which I received the news that my article was going to be featured and the dull sense of joy when I saw it in print. For the hospitalization of my grandfather which was progressively turning worse as he began to be in intensive care, quite sapped the positive feeling out of Life for a week.

Being a doctor, it was painfully evident that my grandfather was approaching the termination of his commendable journey and so in a flash of inspiration which was undoubtedly from Heaven, I took a clipping of my article and highlighted the paragraph where I paraphrased his contribution to the article. He took it in his hands and smiled a weak smile that reached right up to his eyes that sparkled with pride and joy and at that moment, amidst the chilly cold and beeping machines in the ICU, I knew he was silently blessing me; comforting me and earnestly beseeching me to find closure.

We discharged him at his behest and our request (and obviously against medical advice!) and brought him home the next day. He spent a day in apparent recovery, good health and cheer and at the crack of dawn the very next day, passed along to the void as silently and as painlessly one can ever hope for!

So yes, this article is immensely important to me in more than materialistic ways and has forever the mark of poignant sentimentality attached to it as the last words my writer-grandfather penned for his novice granddaughter.  

08 August 2015

1st NEWSPAPER ARTICLE

When I got a call from my good friend inviting me to try writing about my internship experiences, especially regarding the rural posting experience, it was a loud wake-up gong to the Creative Right Brain, which had unfortunately been lying dormant since final year of medical school life forced the Retentive Left Brain to take over and dominate.

Its been nearly a year since the article I submitted to The Education Times of Times of India group got published - 10.11.2014 to be exact -  got published.
Here is a glimpse of the feature;    


Hopefully this will be the first of many!

Root for me guys. I hope to take hand-in-hand my passion for Medicine and for writing in the near future. Watch this space for more!

15 August 2014

THE SELFIE CRAZE!



Our latest obsession!

I’m sure all you Facebookers, Twitterati and Instagramers would know which newly coined word was declared as the Oxford Word of the Year for 2013 as social media was literally flooded by the news. The word and world of ‘Selfies’ have taken over Gen Y by storm and not even our parents’ and grandparents’ generation are immune to it! Just flip out your phone and take a look at the WhatsApp/Viber profile pictures in your friends’ list. Aren’t a good number of them selfies? Wait. Even you might be sporting a selfie pic in it. You get my point! During the glittering Oscars ceremony in LA, California in early 2014, the host Ellen Degeneres took a star-studded selfie photobombed by many red-carpet celebrities (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey..you name it!) and uploaded it which got so swiftly and rapidly re-tweeted across the globe that Twitterverse actually crashed for a few minutes due to heavy online traffic! It just goes to show the dominance this phenomenon has had in our daily lives.



For the uninitiated and unacquainted, a ‘Selfie’ is the Internet slang term for ‘Self-Portrait - a fast self-portrait usually taken at arm’s length (and in front of a mirror with a flash), clicked with a smartphone’s camera and immediately shared in social networks as an instant visual communication of where we are, what we’re doing, who we think we are, and who we think is watching. Selfies have changed aspects of social interaction, body language, body image, self-awareness, privacy, humor, irony and public behavior and sentiment. The advent of digital cameras and the ubiquitous mobile cameras can be considered as the main culprits for the epidemic. When I use the word epidemic, I use it with caution for I am not implicating that it is a disease per se but a certain degree of acquired malady of the mind is at hand here according to many ongoing and published research. In fact, a recent study published by a reputed University in the US created an uproar when it declared that the so-called Selfie Mania is but a different manifestation of Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Narcissism



Its no secret that the fairer sex are the ones obsessed with taking selfies. Not that guys are far behind though! Boys and guys showing flexed biceps, sculpted abs and sweaty gym sessions to sporting flashy rides and expensive gadgets have emerged in contrast to girls who usually click a million pictures of themselves in front of mirrors at the best possible vantage angles. Let’s have a closer look at this craze – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly! 



The Good: Well, for starters, people have turned more image-conscious. We groom ourselves better and tend to seize opportunities to click the best-looking and the most flattering image of ourselves. It’s a self-esteem booster according to some friends who claim that a good selfie pic makes them feel happy about their physical appearance and feel that the lengths they’ve gone to get that look (a new haircut perhaps!) finally paid off when they get that perfect selfie. Also, the appreciation we receive from our friends who ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on the picture stimulates us to take more and more selfies in future albeit with changes in pose, locale and look. A self-propagating self-love!



The Bad: Plenty to say here, I’m afraid. We spend an inordinate amount of time in front of mirrors or sifting through pictures in our phones’ gallery and editing them with a million apps till we are satisfied with the end result – a good looking portrait! Does it end there? Nope. Dissatisfaction often creeps in fuelled by the subconscious mental image of friends who have managed to click a far better selfie than us. Click-View-Edit-Upload. The vicious cycle goes on! A gross waste of productive time and energy for something so trivial! Alarmingly, many teens and adolescents who are less physically endowed than their good-looking friends end up having low self-esteem and depression at not being able to be on par with their peers in terms of looks. A disquieting trend whose tentacles have insinuated their way into our mainstream lives is the way cosmetic products and picture editing apps have started to become indispensable! Almost every beauty product shows an A-lister celebrity endorsing a particular product and clicking a gorgeous selfie (“Be seflie ready!” as one actor croons from the TV) as if the sole reason why they’re looking that delicious ain’t the hours spent in the dressing room but by the single use of that product. And we as faithful consumers lap it all up! *facepalm* Yet another worrisome habit that has spawned is the inopportune moments we seize to take a selfie and shout out to the world that I-was-there-when-it-happened. For example the ‘Funeral selfie’ that never went public – that of US President Barack Obama with British Prime Minister David Cameron  and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt took a group selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2013; we saw only Roberto Schmidt’s photograph of them doing so and a visibly miffed looking Michelle Obama sitting two seats away turning her face against the indelicate gesture displayed by her husband and other leaders at the funeral of a great man. That act drew a lot of scathing criticism at the irreverence displayed by world’s top leaders and the opportunistic mindset that has taken over us. Another sound example would be the ‘Accident Selfie’ when a person poses in front of an accident scene and clicks a picture of himself in its backdrop. Seriously. WHAT are they trying to tell the world? That they’re so full of themselves and so ‘cool’ that they actually can’t deign to lend a helping hand to those in distress behind them? Ugh. 



The Ugly: The one that irks me the most personally. I like good selfies by people don’t get me wrong but there are just some poses that grates the nerves like anything. The most hated selfies of all according to popular vote is the ‘Pouting selfie’ nicknamed as the ‘Duckface’. Restricted to girls mostly they show selfies of girls making pouty face with their lips and other grotesque postures which they erroneously think are cute and adorable. Sorry to spill the beans kids but no one really wants to see anyone’s lips magnified and focused in a picture as soon as they log into their social networks unless they’re of stalkerish tendencies! The kiss-ready pose has been dubbed as the worst kind of selfies showcasing narcissism and true to human nature that’s the number one trending selfies among girls. Unfortunate! Guys are of no exception. The various sweaty ‘Work-out selfies’ from the gym showing pumped up biceps, the coveted 6-pack abdomen and monstrously large muscles are anything but appealing sometimes! But they just don’t get it, do they? 



Did I just discourage y’all (or myself) from taking selfies ever again? I hope not. Did I succeed in enlightening you to the growing narcissistic tendencies and at times disrespectful gestures involved in being absorbed in taking pictures of oneself? I sure hope so. Mission accomplished! All I’m concerned at this point in time is that our generation does not transform itself into an insensitive and self-absorbed young herd who would go to many lengths to get a picture of ourselves and drown our creativity and energies to accomplish a task so trivial and inconsequential in life when we can be devoting our time to Live! And not just appear to live via frozen pixels to showoff before others!
So until the next wave of change hits our mania-prone technology-reliant generation, signing off on this note with a hope that we all will hitherto not overindulge in a fad that can potentially change our psyche and not for the good. Oh and before you go, update your latest selfie or atleast take one if you haven’t. Might as well jump on the bandwagon. Just take care not to travel too far alone. Over and out!


20 July 2014

I KNOW YOU USE THE ‘F’ WORD!



- An Insight into how your friend’s friend’s friend affects your Psyche, and much more!



Before you leapdive into the conclusions that your fired up Brain is churning forth the moment it saw the phrase ‘F word’, allow me to explain myself.  While I’m not denying that the title was a deliberate wordplay to grab attention (aren’t titles supposed to do that??), it just refers innocuously to Facebook and not the profanity I know you thought at first! And although the title sounds uncannily like the I Know What You Did Last Summer movie-series, it does not in anyway reflect what you’re about to come across in my write-up. If I’ve succeeded in arresting the page-flicking tendency of your fingers long enough to spark an iota of interest, read on...

 I do not intend to write about Facebook or Twitter and weigh their pros and cons. They are a much clich├ęd discussion topic now gathering rust. I merely would like to analyze what it is that attracts us to social networking sites so much and why Internet is a resource as vital to us as the air we breathe!

So onward to the million-dollar question: Why are we obsessed with Internet and Social Networking? Perhaps the easiest answer that springs to my mind is the oft-heard explanation that ‘Man is a Social Animal’.  True. Human beings are gregarious creatures. We tend to mingle and interact. And what better a platform than social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and Blogger and Hubs? Here one can add friends and share photos, tweet about what is happening around us, blog about our lives and argue our heads off regarding shared topics of interest. Now if things were this simple, I wouldn’t have bothered writing this piece…

Today, these sites are not merely places where you interact with people in your life (albeit for some, people they’ve never met also!). They are places where you live out your best Alter-Ego. Come on, we’ve all done it! No one ever puts up self-derogatory comments or photos (unless yes, they are pathologically depressed) and always tries to project one’s best facet to the public. (Big reason why one should always be wary of online relationships – whether it be love or friendships!)

So just think – How many times have you hunted your gallery of pictures and let out a frustrated sigh at not being able to find that perfect profile picture? How many times have you logged in minute after minute to check for new status updates or tweets from friends or the celebrities you idolize? Or to see how many ‘like’s and ‘comment’s your photo upload or status or share has garnered? (Hey I’m not judging. Been there, done that!)



The thing is, we’re all starved. Yes, starved for acknowledgement of our existence (stemming from the fear of going unnoticed), for acceptance as someone of worth and for praise. It has been said that Praise nearly equals Power in its aphrodisiac qualities! Except that here, the love it generates and tries to sustain is self-love a.k.a Narcissism. No wonder socialites and icons who used to be in the limelight can rarely thrive outside it! But I digress. Let’s move forward.

Our day-to-day lives are influenced to a very vast degree by online networking, whether you realize it or not! If you want me to exemplify, here goes:
·         Every time you go dress-shopping, you tend to buy branded attire even if it lasers a huge hole in your wallet – why? Because your photos in Facebook may showcase it, that’s why!
·         Before selecting a new mobile or car or home appliance, you mentally go over the popular gadgets that your friends sport – why? Because you want to buy something that equals or rivals theirs so that yours can become the talk of the town, that’s why!
·         You dislike a newly-released movie or book after seeing some downbeat reviews without even giving it your chance – why? Because you tend to value others opinion more than yours, that’s why!
·         You pretend to like a popular chartbuster or a new food fad even though you didn’t like it personally – why? Because your peer group is crazily tweeting about it and you don’t want to be not doing the same, that’s why!
·         You cast your vote for a candidate without bothering to check his/her credentials – why? Because you saw that their fanpage in Facebook or Twitter profile had more likes and followers, that’s why!

It is exactly on this kind of ‘Herd Mentality’ on which that social networks thrive. I’m not opining that it’s bad, neither am I saying its all-good. Just that, the individual assertion of views seems to be lacking in many a circumstance and it is a powerful influence on our perceptions of right and wrong and our opinions! It is innately hardwired in us biologically to mimic others (after all, we’re said to have descended from the Apes right?) And Darwin sure was right about his Survival of the Fittest theory. It is the opinion and the trends set by the ‘fittest’ (i.e. intellectually, socially and financially better placed) individuals that dominate and mould the perceptions of the gullible - who strive mimic them to fit into the Hot & Happening dance floor than remain as a Wallflower of the party of Life!


My dear readers, your well-intentioned writer is not asking you to forego any of the pleasures that social networking can bestow. All I’m asking is for you to stop and think and act rationally. Just because you saw while browsing that some of your friends have got a new BMW from his wife or recently acquired a Samsung Galaxy SIII (does that make him/her more human, like their ad says?) or went to exotic locales for holidaying or got a promotion, it does not mean that your life sucks (excuse the strong language – it is just to drive home the point)!

People tend to showcase only the most witty, joyful and bullet-pointed success versions of their lives. By making conscious or sub-conscious comparisons with their lives (in an apparently greener pasture!) you are making yourself vulnerable to a loss of self-esteem and fear of asserting your individual opinions dreading the contemptuous looks or remarks you might invite from your more highly-placed ‘friends’. Are they then your friends in anyway?

So after all that dire Freudian psychoanalysis of mine (Sigmund Freud, pardon me!), I really hope I’ve not deterred you from the social networking bandwagon! Trust me when I say that Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, LinkdIn, MySpace and the like are immense fun and a novel way of keeping in contact like never before! It has enabled me to keep in touch with all my friends right from kindergarten to college, most of my school teachers are there in Facebook, not to mention neighbours and family members who have settled in different continents altogether. Temporal and geographical boundaries blur and only their physical presence is wanting. Even my parents have joined up and revel in meeting up with their spread out family, long-lost classmates and batchmates of their erstwhile college life, plus their current colleagues and students!

My take-home messages? Simple.
·         Cease to compare your life with that of others. Do not judge a book by its cover and a person by their looks or online persona alone.
·         Preserve and nurture your self-esteem. Do not let it pale in comparison to the projected facades of others or their supposed accomplishments.
·         Be honest. Online and offline. It makes life a lot less complicated.
·         ‘Blood is thicker than water’ – Family always comes first, friends only next – whether real or virtual.

Cyberworld is here to stay. We use it to network, for our travel purposes, for research,  business transactions and for entertainment. It is sutured so securely into the fabric of our daily lives that there’s no escaping it. To be a good digital/real-life citizen, the best analogy I can come up with is to urge you to be like the goblin-crafted Sword of Gryffindor (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, remember?) – imbibe only that which strengthens you and be impervious to other detrimental influences! So what are you waiting for? Go log in!!




19 February 2012

THE TRAVELBUG!



Have you ever been bitten

By the bug that ain’t a bug?

Bitten and very much smitten

Am I with the TravelBug!


Oh! What joy it is to pack

Your tiny world into a rucksack

Heave it on your shoulders tight

And off we go to see the sights!


Sometimes walking, sometimes trudging

Inching forward without grudging

The heady climb of hills quite steep

Does make you forget you’d craved to sleep!


At the summit as I stand

I begin to understand

The world’s far more beautiful folks

Than to you and me it at first looks!


Off we go to the next destination

Unhindered by the creeping exhaustion

For Will now leads my weary limbs

Striving am I to keep with the climb!


From valleys deep and canyons long

Spring forth brooks with their gurgling song

Tiny rivulets meet and merge

And raging rivers thus emerge!


As each reach the gorges tall

They have no go but to fall

And thus are born mighty waterfalls

Get under it and you have a ball!


Wet and weary you set up camp

On meadows kissed by fresh dew damp

Hit the sack as the stealthy night

Robs the sky of its light!


I wake up at the crack of day

With troubles at a land far, far away

To the serenade of birds which twitter and tweet-

Their lungs out many melodies sweet!


Making our way through the thickets

And brambles which are nothing but wicked

On we run with open hands

Out of the woods onto plain land!


Before this trip is ever complete

We wolf down a meal that is so replete

And off we go on the final lap

To the cities marked out in the map!


Now each city is a different story

Laden with years of unique history

Castles and relics cheat time and last

Reminding us of a valiant past!


Cars speed past on roads so fast

Leave in their wake mere gusts of dust

Buildings so tall they scrape the sky

Vying to be the one most high!


From the verdant jungle to the concrete one

Life’s diverse under the blazing sun

While fauna scamper to hunt and be hunted

People scurry past each other undaunted!


Nightfall brings an exotic glow

To the sea of humanity which on the streets flow

I drink in the lights, the smells and feel

Swamped in my senses and so I reel!


Sorry am I to turn my back

As I heave on last time my precious rucksack

Vowing to return as heartstrings tug

For yes, I am a TravelBug!