The year gone by has been brutal to say the least. Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers are holding their forts bravely, counseling, leading, consulting, treating and guiding caregivers on their kith and kin. They have been through the entire cycle – from the point a concerned family member approaches them with the first symptom, to the point they have had to share the “news” that the patient is no more. Some are holding up, some lost hope and gave up on their lives, some are hanging on by the thinnest strand of hope, love, patience, whatever they can.
Life has given up a million times in this last one year.
Almost every one of us are, or were, a caregiver to someone during this period.
We have never ever felt more helpless, more powerless and more desperate than today. The sights of graveyards and cremation grounds on TV channels is nothing less than an apocalypse. The thought of so many people in grief – wrenches the heart in fear.
The apathy of those we entrusted our lives to;
The cold blooded, ruthless stare of the self-centered soul wreaks heavily of hands drenched in blood.
But that is not what comes to the mind when caregivers hear screams of their loved ones. Not the shrieks but the silent screams of helpless eyes searching, looking, knowing that something dreadful will happen. These screams, silent screams, if one were to translate, would have just one question – Why?
Why did we allow someone to gag us silent, to bully us into servitude, to convince us that suicide is the best route to salvation?
Why did we allow someone to convince us to hate our brothers, to choose a path that would lead us to devastation?
Why did we not see it coming, when human life was being squandered on the roads leaving blood red foot steps of those wanting to return home, but no one to hear their pleas.
Why did we not see it coming when lifeless men were erected to be worshipped as those who laid its foundation – alive, hungry, struggling, surviving, were ignored?
Why did we allow such huge eons to creep up between the affluent and the common, that the common had no other way except to embrace crime so the pangs would stop?
More questions – but maybe, one day, maybe we all will breathe free, talk free, express free and live free, without fear.
Maybe we all will breathe free, talk free, express free and live free, without fear.
Maybe one day, we all will remember how many of us donned angel wings and tried to help unknown souls, some successful, some not, some punished – but maybe one day, we will all remember what kept us sane is the little bit of humanity that we clung on to, for one another.
Life, in reality, is very beautiful – each cell inside the various forms of nature – tress, oceans, waves, rivers, wind, breeze, birds, bees – throbs with the testimony of life’s relentless pursuit for happiness. Man has complicated everything with fear, expectation, pride, jealousy, greed and rat race.
In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”
The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”
The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”
Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”
~ Authored by Útmutató a Léleknek, a Hungarian writer
Me: I’m falling apart. Can you put me back together?
God: I’d rather not.
God: Because you’re not a puzzle.
Me: What about all the pieces of my life that fall to the ground?
God: Leave them there for a while. They fell for a reason. Let them be there for a while and then decide if you need to take any of those pieces back.
Me: You don’t understand! I’m breaking!
God: No, you don’t understand. You’re transcending, evolving. What you feel are growing pains. You’re getting rid of the things and people in your life that are holding you back. The pieces are not falling down. The pieces are being put in place. Relax. Take a deep breath and let those things you no longer need fall down. Stop clinging to pieces that are no longer for you. Let them fall. Let them go.
Me: Once I start doing that, what will I have left?
God: Only the best pieces of yourself.
Me: I’m afraid to change.
God: I keep telling you: YOU’RE NOT CHANGING! YOU’RE BECOMING!
Me: Becoming, Who?
God: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light, love, charity, hope, courage, joy, mercy, grace and compassion. I made you for so much more than those shallow pieces you decided to adorn yourself with and that you cling to with so much greed and fear. Let those things fall off you. I love you! Don’t change! Become! Don’t change! Become! Become who I want you to be, who I created. I’m gonna keep telling you this until you remember.
Me: There goes another piece.
God: Yes. Let it be like this.
Me: So… I’m not broken?
God: No, but you’re breaking the darkness, like dawn. It’s a new day. Become!! Become who you really are!!”
“Please help me out, bete. I have got a new laptop, and it has Windows 8. They have installed the softwares but I need to arrange everything so that it’s easier for me to find it. I had Windows 7 before this.” – So saying, Raghav Uncle expressed his distress in having to fumble across the extra hi-fi user interface of Windows 8.
I personally don’t like Windows 8 so much. Cumbersome and takes time to adapt to.
I could imagine how Uncle would have struggled for 3 weeks. I told him not to worry, and that I would set everything for easy access.
As I entered his humble abode, I see a room filled with a history of memories in the form of photographs, mementos and awards. A feeling of pride emanates just in the mere presence of the room.
“How is my grand daughter doing?” was his first statement to me. I told him I am doing well, and that I was here on a small project. It was my privilege to be able to meet him. First of all, he introduced me to his wife, who looked back at me serenely from the photograph. How many people honour their spouses in this way after they have left for God’s abode? Very few. I don’t know of any. Uncle has dedicated a whole section in his dining room to his late wife, declaring that this is my commitment and love towards her – it will always be there, so what if she is not with me today.
In my fruitful life of 86 years, I have no faults – except one. Just one fault. Just one regret.
I was taken aback. I asked him, Uncle, what regret do you have? He told me, “Beti, my wife loved me so much. The only regret I have is that I did not obey her. She wanted me to learn Sanskrit. She wanted to teach me Sanskrit. She was an expert in it. But due to my work commitments, I could not do that. Bas, that is the only fault I did.”
The simplicity of his words struck me.
Then he introduced me to his great grand children (through the pictures adorning the walls) – one of them had received a token of appreciation from Mr. Barack Obama, and had done his Great Granpa and parents proud. Ah, what kids, of course they have carried the genes of their smart thatha.
To see the room filled with relics of a life lived with great honor and principles, is an experience worth savouring.
What best to describe the same than to post this picture – which commemorates his contribution of ‘Highest Professional Standards’ to the Andhra Pradesh Police Department, in 1982, when he was awarded the President’s Police Medal for distinguished service.
And then, as I understood with what kind of difficulty Uncle was trying to share his wisdom with all us Sulekhaiites, I could see the will power of a man who had lived a life of strong principles and who wished to keep the enthusiasm alive, no matter how difficult and no matter how tough it got, with stomach cancer and low visibility in the eyes.
He showed me the video of his felicitation when his book ‘Reminiscences’ was launched. Late Mr. Y S Rajasekhar Reddy spoke a amazing words and really eminent personalities were present on the stage, remembering what service Uncle has done for the country.
There were anecdotes that he amused me with, especially the one in which he said,
Kamzarf Gar Daulat, Zar, Zan, Zameen Paa Jaye
Maaninde Hubaab ubhar ke Itraa Jaaye
Which in context, meant that, if it so happens that a man of low character suddenly acquires great deal of wealth, gold, land or woman, he takes pride and loses it just like a soap bubble, which flies for 3 minutes before it bursts.
What should be my fortune to be receiving wisdom like this straight from the noble grandpa himself!
As I set his laptop to make it as easy for him as possible, he blesses me with gratitude and wishes well for me, sharing with me, that he is completing 5 years on Sulekha on 2nd October.
At this age, he has been the most active member on Sulekha, and has written almost 550+ blogs.. What an achievement!!
Here’s congratulating him for his 5 years’ completion and wishing that he enlightens us always with his sher-o-shayari, life’s anecdotes and just plain blessings.
As I was leaving, Uncle stoops over a small plant in his balcony, and tries to pluck a leaf. He criushes the leaf, inhales and checks for aroma… and breaks another leaf and hands it over to me. I am not sure what to do with it. It looks like Tulsi. I ask, “Uncle, should I taste it?” Uncle said, “Bete, smell it first.”
As I smelt the crushed leaf, I felt the the most most most wonderful aroma I had ever smelt in life. And I exclaimed, “Uncle, This looks like a combination of Mint and Tulsi!!!”
And what do you know??? Uncle nodded and smiled, saying, “Yes, bete. It is. It is called…..” I think Mentha Arvensis.. (I don’t seem to recall the exact scientific name, but I am sure Uncle will correct me.
Here is a gallery I am proud of sharing with you all:
Peter was a novice fisherman, who struggled with the paddles, the moment the waters got rough. He felt he would drown any minute and this would make him panic. He lost a lot of business because of this. Hence he decided to approach Confucius, who was a master boatman, who was known for his dexterity of boating, especially in rough waters.
“Sir, please accept me as your disciple. Can you please teach me how to control a boat in rough waters like you?”, asked Peter.
“*Who gave you this absurd thought, that I can control the boat?* If you want to be a good boatman, you must never worry about controlling the boat”, said Confucius.
“Whattttt? If I don’t worry about controlling the boat then how do I handle the boat in rough waters? Wouldn’t I drown and die if the boat topples?”, asked Peter, taken aback.
Confucius replied, “How can the boat or the sea make you drown? And how can they save you from drowning? This is what people don’t get.
*I am not the best boatman. I am the best swimmer.* It’s not about the boat, it’s not about the sea, it’s about controlling yourself. Let the sea be rough. Let the boat topple. Let your still mind not topple and drown in fear.
The moment you stop fearing and worrying about the boat and the sea, the control is back in your hands!”
*LIFE CAN NEVER BE CONTROLLED. THE ONLY THING THAT WE CAN CONTROL IS OURSELVES.*
Life will get rough. Life will topple. Life was never meant to be still. But we can be still. *STILLNESS IS THE KEY*. A calm and composed mind, is all that we need, to overcome the fear of drowning and toppling.
We can’t control the recession, the economy. *We can’t control the market BUT WE CAN CONTROL OUR MARKET SHARE*, ISN’T IT SO? People have not stopped buying whatever you are selling. There are millions of people who are still buying this stuff, but they are not buying from you. *UP YOUR GAME*. Make them buy from you.
We can’t control the cancer. But we can control our fears, ours worries, our attitude, our spirit. *Fear of death actually means you love life a lot.* Fearing death is a negative emotion that creates painful thoughts. Loving life is a positive emotion that creates joyful thoughts. Fear of illness means you love health. *THINK FROM THE SPACE OF WHAT YOU LOVE, AND DO MORE OF IT, WHENEVER YOU FEAR LOSING SOMETHING. We can’t add days to our lives, but we can add a lot of life to our days!*
Don’t waste your time and energy controlling other people’s reactions or behaviours. Don’t waste your time cribbing about how rough and tough your life is. Don’t waste your time trying to control your boat, or the sea. Control yourself! That’s it!
*The sea will get rough. The boat will topple. Learn how to swim!!*
2020 has been a tough year for the whole world and it has been, for me as well. Challenges, losses, big moves in life have happened.
One of the most difficult period of my life started when my father got diagnosed with throat cancer in August 2020. I was referred to Basavatarakam Indo American hospital in Hyderabad for his treatment and exactly as I had heard, the doctors here are the best in their domain – very dedicated and good experts in what they do.
My review here is for the entire experience I had during the course of my father’s treatment.
First things first, about cancer treatment, no one – no one tells you how difficult it is and how lengthy it is. Unless you are aware of the treatment and what it entails; you will never be prepared. It can take your peace away and test your patience to its brink. On one hand, you see the patient suffer excruciatingly; but on the other hand, what one goes through as a caregiver is another story altogether. And yes, finances – it can drain away everything that you have earned in your life. No, insurance does not help and is never enough. Plus, what happens with insurance is another story. Insurance industry runs on ambiguity of everything – ambiguity of disease, of medication, of hospital admissions, of every damn thing.
If you are looking for the best treatment for yourself or your near and dear ones, then the doctors at Indo American do fit the bill. If you know how to work around other challenges, then this is a good choice to make at least treatment wise. Rather, only treatment wise.
One note on Emergency Room doctors – they do not cut a great picture, neither of competence nor of accountability. One of the doctors actually LIED in the log book that he had requested us for admission and that I had refused it – while in reality, the cosulting doctor had clearly said that there was no medical reason for giving admission and that patient could be discharged. It sometimes, boils down to individual ethics and the moment to moment dynamics that happen at that point in time. I came to know that a statement like this one, made by doctors, could end up hampering your chances of getting insurance because the insurance folks treat it as interference in treatment from insured.
Unfortunately, I found most of the nurses in Indo American extremely callous and irresponsible. They shirk responsibility and keep passing the buck from one person to another.. when it comes to patient care. I also found them highly strung, anxious and at the end of their tether most of the time. They keep screaming at each other and at the ward boys – displaying displeasure about everything around them. They do make sure that the patient and their attender do not face their ire – but everything else is usually put under fire. One more strange thing I realised that the nurses here have zero compassion and are just discharging their duties out of force or majboori. It shows in their attitude, in the way they talk and in the way they behave. Also, as a caregiver, you have to be very VERY vigilant – lest they do not even give you your set of medical reports of the patient. Twice it so happened that the tests that were done when my father was admitted – the reports were filed only in their confidential copy of the file and only when I explicitly asked for the reports, they gave me the same copy and asked me to get zerox copies for THEIR file.
There is no provision for special needs of the patient. My father was on a completely liquid diet and nurses just would not look into it – blaming the canteen for no liquid food except soup, etc., and that too only at a particular time. So I had to arrange for his diet needs from outside and I struggled because I was so scared of infection. I specifically faced this challenge because Hyderabad is not my home town and I had shifted temporarily for my father’s treatment. So I neither had a kitchen nor the utensils to get him his food. My childhood friend’s family chipped in here and sent food for almost 10 days from Secunderabad – thank God for blessings like these.
For a hospital that depends on floating population and a good bunch of foreigners that come down here to get themselves treated for cancer, this was a basic thing that was missing. My intention is not to complain but make everyone aware of these challenges. I had to listen to my father’s cries of hunger – he would live on 3 absolutely watery soup glasses that were given to him morning, afternoon and night and 2 glasses of milk – all about 50 ml. It was the most painful thing for me. I was not allowed to meet him due to COVID and I expected that he would be taken care of – he wasn’t; not at least until he was in the COVID ward for 4 days. He lived on hunger. I suffered the pain of seeing him in pain and starvation.
Once his tests were out and he was declared completely COVID negative, he was shifted to a regular room – and after that it was slightly better journey. He had to get a tracheostomy done for ease in breathing and a PEG tube so he could be fed via stomach. What one goes through with tracheostomy is another story – which I will dedicate a separate blog on – but for now, let us just say, here’s where the nurses lacked compassion.
It’s all about money. They help you with a wheel chair, they expect money – no no, they blatantly ASK for it. They help dad with his sponge bath, they ask for money. They change the sheets – they want money. It was crazy. I was foolishly handing out 100 rs everytime to them – and then one day, I realised, how do others manage? The realisation came when one ward boy asked for money after giving my father his sponge bath and when I handed him a note, he felt it was too less and high-handedly said, keep it with yourseldf.
Because 6 weeks of treatment and if I am handing out let’s say an average of 200 per day to the ward boys for doing what they are being paid to do, in addition to the treatment costs, I end up paying a good Rs. 8400. I realised this is loot.
What I found the worst of the entire experience was that there was no counselling for the patient or the caregivers – we had no clue what to expect and we just kept guessing, taking each day as it comes. I ask TOO many questions – so I managed to try and understand what was going on, what treatment was being given and how to deal with the tracheostomy, what to expect, etc. But overall, it’s a blind game. You go through it to know it and see it. There is no other way. If you know about the treatment or have read about it, you might know what to expect but otherwise, you have to make peace with piece by piece of difficult realisations – 1) That the treatment will take a minimum of 6 weeks 2) That even after this, there is another 6 weeks of recovery period and that you will not know how effective the treatment was until after the recovery period. 3) That the entire expense will be draining you way more than you expect – so if you expect the treatment to be about 5 lakhs, in reality you will be spending 2x of that. And insurance will pay a pithy amount and tell you that your sub limit has expired.
The most difficult part of cancer treatment is to see your life getting wasted away waiting for doctors, nurses, medicines, lines, queues, one cabin, another cabin, and then days pass by listlessly. If you are a caregiver and have a job, expect issues – because there is hardly any awareness around cancer treatments and so, compassion is not easily obtained. My experience has been different in this case, by God’s grace because my MD has seen cancer treatment in his family and hence, he was the most compassionate in all this. Not everyone is that lucky and there is a dire need to fill the gap about cancer treatment awareness for everyone’s benefit.
All said and done, I am thoroughly grateful to everyone, no matter what, for being part of this journey and I have had friends and family comeing together to support me through this. The struggle is not over yet but I am hopeful that it soon will end and I will see my father hale, hearty and smiling with ease at home.
This is not a fairy tale where the knight and the princess live happily ever after.
This is not a fantasy either. It is a real incident.
This writeup will talk about a tall, fair and handsome man. But there is no princess in danger.
I was traveling by bus the day before. Thankfully I got a seat and settled down. Diagonally across me, something caught my attention. Rather, someone. There was a man sitting diagonally across to me. Tall, fair, handsome, as the cliche goes. He had brown eyes too. There was something foreboding about him. The look on his face. His lips were crunched up in ANGER. I could see it very clearly. His eyes were roving around, hitting fire at every one who passed by. And he was swearing. I could SEE, feel and hear it. He was in so much anger, all through the journey, that I could see tirades and arguments going inside his head – on fire.
And then, I said a little prayer, thanking my guardian angels that I did not take the seat next to him. The girl who sat next to him wanted to alight the bus. As she struggled passing him, he was staring at her maliciously, and cursing her at the same time. I ACTUALLY saw him doing it. He did not realise that I had caught him. He continued with his burning stares for every passenger who passed by him (he had taken the aisle seat).
I wondered how much hatred he carried for the world in general. And pitied him too. I have seen such people. Tall, fair handsome.. perfect prototypes. But they are usually unhappy. And generally angry with the world. I could see the negative energy all around him, the bad vibes. I have already encountered such behaviour to NOT recognise it from miles away.
I know of people who would scrunch their nice faces into balls of anger, red eyes, red cheeks and nerves straining at the temples. They are capable of damage – big time damage.
The encounter with this stranger reminded me of a lot of things.
I wonder who the target of his outburst was and feel sad for them. I hope they have the will and strength to face him!!