Apne dhun mein magan (lost in one’s tune)
Chap 3 B: Yes!
It was late twilight. The Sun was about to set. The sky was awash with a plethora of hues that gave everything in sight a warm becoming glow, including the two young occupants of the far table close to the window.
Mili had pulled on a watermelon pink button down sweater, slate colored leggings and a scarf of the finest white pashmina, not realizing that she looked utterly fetching in the outfit. Ahaan, in a deep navy pin striped shirt and tan casual pants was the picture of effortless elegance.
Mili tried to appear unperturbed, even as she felt Ahaan’s admiring gaze upon her. Both had barely touched their drinks.
Finally, mustering some courage, she began, “Ahaan..I…”
“Spill it out! Say it Mili, that you can’t trust me enough to make you happy!”
“I didn’t mean that…” She said looking up, startled by his impassioned tone.
“Then what else was the purpose of this meeting?” He demanded, leaning forward in his chair, staring directly into her eyes.
Mili was shaken. Ahaan seemed to have a lot more vested in this than he had made her feel. It was not just an exercise to fulfill his mother’s wishes. The confident nonchalance he had displayed yesterday had disappeared, leaving in its place a certain raw vulnerability that had been a characteristic of the old Ahaan and it drew her to him. She tried to resist.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
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I lie on the bed
They sit around me
These strangers with familiar voices
In the white room
I think we are waiting for something
These strangers, they look at me
They mutter words I don’t understand
A man wearing a white coat walks in
He stands next to my bed
He speaks not to me
But to these strangers
They are talking about me I know
But what I don’t understand
Irritated, I kick off the covers
Mother! They chide me and pull them back
About the poem: This is a poem about dementia, the hallmark of the disease being loss of memory. I write about a scene I came across during my rounds in the hospital–an elderly lady in the advanced stages of dementia is lying on the bed surrounded by her caring relatives.
About the image: These are a series of self portraits that William Utermohlen, an American artist embarked on after learning he had Alzheimer’s disease.
Chap 3 A: Indecision
Continuing from where I left off 🙂
“Mili?…” Jai ventured at the dinner table, not having had the opportunity to converse with his daughter all day. For after the guests had left, she had locked herself up in her room until her mother had finally coaxed her out for a bite. But she hadn’t tasted her meal…, just pushed the food around her plate for the past half hour.
She stood up, “I think I’ll turn in. It’s been a long day. Good night.”
“But beta (child) we have to talk…” Jai’s voice trailed off when he saw Mili disappear down the corridor without even a glance back. He looked askance at his wife, who was watching the proceedings with a discerning smile on her face.
“Kiran…we really do need to talk to her…”
“Our daughter is confused. Consider it a good sign.” She said, placing a reassuring hand on her husband’s.
Mili turned the TV off and tossed the remote away frustrated. Watching documentaries usually helped her fall asleep but not tonight. Her mind refused to distract itself from the topic of Ahaan. He had made it all so difficult.
She was indeed quite confused. It was not black and white anymore. She couldn’t just pick up the phone and say no to him.
Why? Because she didn’t want to hurt him? Because she cared about how he felt? Did it mean that her feelings for him had undergone a drastic change or was it because they had been silly and unrealistic to begin with… A product of an immature adolescent mind. He had never really done anything to incur such animosity from her. His behavior had always been exemplary.
Perhaps mother is right. I victimized him because he was different and his silence made him easy prey. I acted like a cruel child, and he took it all quietly. Even now he bears no malice towards me whatsoever.
Mili was overtaken by tremendous guilt. I should apologize and tell Ahaan that I am not worthy of him.
Swinging her legs off the bed, she walked up to where her sitar rested. She picked it up and began playing absently. Her fingers flew up and down the instrument effortlessly, playing a favorite tune of their own accord.
‘I dabble in a little guitar myself…’
Mili smiled… ‘Dabble’ in Mr TOI’s vocabulary would equal a significant degree of proficiency. She could picture Ahaan strumming expertly on his guitar. Perhaps we could even do a Jugalbandi together, a musical east-west fusion.
No! What am I thinking? That could never be… A frown of distress marred her clear brow.
Placing her beloved instrument aside, she picked up the phone and dialed her elder sister’s number, but then changed her mind immediately.
No.. Sheela di (elder sister) will tell me to be obedient and submit to whatever mama and papaji decide because they know best, Mili mused, recalling the events of four years ago when her sister had complied with Grandpa’s wishes and wedded his best friend’s young nephew, just because he had given him his word. She had quit her studies and had not uttered even a single word of complaint just because the family honor was at stake. It was a different matter altogether that Rohan Jiju (brother in law) had turned out to be the perfect match for her.
She opted to call her best friend Annie instead.
Diva stood at the entrance of the studio and watched his two friends like a proud mother watches her high achieving kids and pride swelled his chest.
They were doing what they did best–dancing. And when they danced they were in their element. Two gorgeous individuals in perfect synth—a condition so infectious it spilled over to the rest of the artists and made them give their very best.
The dance was a slow lyrical number; a song about the triumph of love with plenty of lifts and intimate moves giving Shaan ample opportunity to romance Khanak and he made the best of it repeating certain steps over and over in the pretense of correcting other dancers’ mistakes, in the process making Khanak go red with embarrassment.
“I think everybody’s got it Shaan. We should let them work on their own now.” Khanak said breaking away when she found him on the verge of kissing her which was certainly not part of the routine. He let go of her reluctantly and though he tried hard, couldn’t cover his frustration.
That is exactly what happens when you bottle up your feelings, bachaa! Diva thought with a smirk. He sashayed up to the pair, “C’mon little ones….lets go home.”
“Home? Whatever for?” Shan had to work hard to control his scowl. He was in no mood to listen to anybody at the moment, particularly Diva with his far fetched ideas.
His friend’s false eyelashes went aflutter as he pouted, “For a photo shoot. An intimate portrait of two lovers which I feel should be documented for posterity… to inspire future generations.” He sighed. “Just like Shakespeare did with Romeo and Juliet even though they were fictional characters. But both of you are very much for real and the world needs to know don’t you think?” His sly wink enveloped both of them.
Darwaze, khidkiyaan, jharokhe, verandey
Hain ye imaartein
Kuch keh rahi hain ye
Rough translation: (Doors, windows, details, so beautiful, are these buildings, look at them, listen, understand, think, learn, they are speaking to you)
What can I say, but I’m fascinated and inspired by buildings, and people around buildings. That’s why I’m a musafir. Kindly excuse me for my very poor Urdu and Hindi poetry skills.
Darwaza: Urdu for door; Khidki: Hindi for window; Jharokha: An overhanging enclosed balcony used in Rajasthani architecture; Khoobsurat: Urdu for beautiful; Imaarat: Urdu for building; Dekho: Hindi for look; Suno: Hindi for listen; Socho: Hindi for think; Jano: Hindi for learn
Dr. Anandibai Joshi (1865-1887)
Indian women pioneered many things not just in India but also in the west becoming a source of inspiration for women and women’s movement across the world. Early in my residency and sometimes even now, I’m made to perceive that I’m not good enough to be a doctor just because I’m a woman. Once an elderly lady told me to my face that she’d prefer a male doctor to do her gynecological exam. I was stunned to comprehend the degree of prejudice women have to face particularly those in the fields of science. So when I read about Anandibai Joshi and women like her, I’m dumbfounded by their bravery and the degree of resistance they had to overcome.
Anandibai Joshi was among the first Indian women qualified to practice western medicine.
Dr. Joshi belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family of rich landlords in Kalyan. At the tender age of nine she was pressured to marry a widower, a man twenty years her senior Gopalrao Joshi. The beginning of a typical Indian story? No. Anandibai was just thirteen when she had her first child.Unfortunately the child died when he was just ten days old. She was heartbroken and angered to realize that her son would have survived if he had received proper medical care. This sparked in her the desire to study medicine and her liberal husband stood fully behind her.
Why would an Indian woman go so far away for medical school?
Because it was the best way to serve her country was the gist of Anandibai’s answer. The reason Anandibai had to look to the west is because in India, Hindu women, particularly those belonging to higher castes were not welcome in the profession.They were pushed to become midwives instead. If they insisted they could enroll in Chennai, to be taught by reluctant male instructors, and receive an incomplete training. It was easier if they converted to Christianity as they could wear a dress and that wouldn’t cause a scandal. Since Anandibai and her husband had no desire to convert, she decided to turn to the America. She applied with the assistance of Presbyterian missionaries. She enrolled and subsequently received her degree in 1886, from the Women’s Medical College in Pennsylvania. Her achievement was lauded, to the extent the dean of her school wrote about it to Queen Victoria, Empress of India. Anandibai was invited to become the physician-in-charge of the women’s department at the Albert Edward Hospital in the princely state of Kolhapur, where she also had the opportunity to instruct women medical students. Unfortunately, before she could embark triumphantly in her career, it was destroyed by the diagnosis of tuberculosis and she breathed her last in the arms of her mother, a month before her 22nd birthday.
Dr. Anandibai Joshi lived a very short life but she achieved a lot. She broke barriers not just for women but also for the Hindu community. Even now we can look to her life and gain strength and inspiration.This is a fight which will go on until we get what we want–what we deserve–equality.
God is a sculptor and Arches National Park is his workshop.
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5: The Inevitable
A few days passed without event. I was outside on our tiny terrace garden, a watering can in my hand, exchanging notes with my young neighbor while her good-looking bhaiyya hung around in the background and pretended to ignore me. I was in a great mood having received a very good offer from a renowned local clinic. Plus mom had made my favorite idli sambhar for breakfast which I took as a peace offering from her side.
“Let’s go to a movie. How about you Manas?”
“I’d love to come. How about this Friday? I’m free after five,” Puja’s brother said catching my eye and I felt something akin to an old familiar excitement.
“Yes it’s a date!” I turned and skipped back inside, already thinking about what I was going to wear.
My hopes were dashed.
My mother confronted me again but this time she had company… my Dad.
I haven’t yet talked about him. There’s a reason. Because Dad and I shared a relationship which could be best be described as uncertain. Mom and I got along quite well. At least we had so far despite her many faults and likely mine as well. We usually found a middle ground. But it wasn’t the same with Dad.
To everyone; family, friends and neighbors included, Krishnakanth Govindrao Bhatt was a wonderful person. He was solid, hardworking, honest and reliable. And he was generous to a fault ever ready to lend a helping hand. But he had a vice that dismissed everything. At least it did for me–his love for drink. The bane of many families. It was what drove my brother away to join the army and make a life of his own. My mother’s years of sitting up late into the night waiting for Dad to come home and then having to deal with his drunken meanness with my assistance. It is still as clear as day. I remember wrestling with him while he rained slurred curses on mom. Him telling me I was good nothing, the vile stench of alcohol on his breath. There were times he would retch up blood and we would rush him to the hospital. He always recovered. Always; only to return to his ways. I was traumatized. Perhaps that contributed to my anxiety and eternal self doubt. Perhaps it was the reason I could never open up to anyone because I couldn’t trust them. How can you after being betrayed by someone so close to you? Perhaps it was also the reason why I hadn’t confronted Rohan.
Dad did come around finally. I got him into a treatment program. He had been sober for almost five years though even now the fear would always haunt us when he didn’t return home on time.
I couldn’t forgive him. So I pushed him to the background. He didn’t mind. Rather he liked to remain there and let me do whatever I wanted. Maybe it was his way of saying sorry. Therefore I think it must have taken mom quite a bit of effort to have him back her today.