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Saturday, 30 July 2016

Because Readers Are Asking !

I make an honest attempt to always keep my praise response mechanism at a default setting of modest gratitude. However, on quite a few occasions in the past month, this setting changed spontaneously to genuine surprise and even unalloyed joy.

The first occasion was when a friend asked why there were no new posts on my Facebook page called Write Every Day that I’d started about a month ago. Although I knew he followed that page, often liking or commenting on stuff I wrote, it did come as a pleasant surprise to realize that he had noticed the writing had stopped.

The next occasion was at a family get-together when I mentioned in passing about having signed up for Sanskrit classes. A dear cousin whom I hadn’t met in person since quite a few months quipped, “I know.” In response to my surprised query of how he knows, pat came the reply, “I read it on your blog.” Which helped me realize that he follows my writings although he has never commented or indicated in any other way that he reads what I write.

Just a few days ago, another cousin popped up on WhatsApp with a sudden query, “Why no blog posts of late?”

And just a few minutes ago, an old student sent me a message saying, “When are you writing new blog Ma'am? I'm eagerly waiting to read.”

All these experiences hold a surreal meaning for me. Because many times when I send people links to my blog posts asking them to read, there's a tiny voice inside that keeps popping up now and then, "What makes you so sure they'll want to? Are you by chance intruding on their time and space by urging them to read you?"

 Whenever I write something, it’s mostly because I’m moved by a particular topic. In that sense, it serves as a chronicle of my views and an outlet for my thoughts. Sometimes, the writing is to try and convey a particular viewpoint that I think will be useful to my readers.

To myself, rather than a “writer”, I feel like just someone who
  • spends a lot of time thinking of things that most others don’t notice or don’t break their heads over
  • is persistent enough to work at putting those thoughts down in writing, and
  • has the nerve to share these thoughts with the world.

 Which is why it always surprises me when I get feedback saying someone is touched by what I write. And it astonishes and gratifies me that people actually wait to read what I have to say.

Putting together all those surreal experiences I mentioned earlier, I’m left once more humbled and grateful and aware of a greater sense of responsibility. To write more often in the vein I do. To try and keep my voice as sane and free of petty considerations as possible. To try and become a really great writer.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Samskruta and Samskruti

Children and teenagers chanting in resonant tones.

Young adults hurriedly going about their allotted duties.

Mild-mannered elderly teachers conveying the most profound of messages.

Respect, humility and affection characterizing the actions of the guests as well as the audience

An audience comprising men, women and children of all ages watching the proceedings with awe as they imbibe the spirit of the event.

The common thread linking these people together, ensuring they sit attentively through a 2-hour program – Sanskrit.

The Sringeri Shankar Mutt where I attend Sanskrit classes every Sunday evening had a small function yesterday. The event was held to give out certificates to students who had cleared the previous year’s exams conducted by the Sura Saraswathi Sabha and Sanskrita Bharathi – two institutions relentlessly striving to get people to learn what is described as the classical language of India.

The entire program – the anchoring, the invocations, welcome speeches, address by the guests of honor and vote of thanks –was conducted almost entirely in Sanskrit. Although many of us students are only now growing familiar with this tongue, it was not really difficult to understand the things that were being said.

But the unspoken left a bigger impact than what was said.

An erudite Veda scholar and teacher staunchly refusing to accept anything except a book as a token of appreciation.

Towering personalities prostrating and attributing their undisputed abilities to the blessings of the Guru and God.

Mothers who initially accompanied their children to the class later enrolling themselves to learn and passing the exams with flying colors.

Indeed, as all the Gurus at yesterday’s event kept reiterating, Sanskrit and Sanskriti – or Samskruta and Samskruti as they called it – are two sides of the same coin. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

How to Make Your Doctor Happy

Yesterday, I noticed a few patients wishing their doctors Happy Doctors Day – some in person, others through social media. Most doctors must have just smiled, said a simple thank you and continued with their work for it was just another day in their fight against disease and ill-health.

But I couldn’t help musing that if only some patients and their families had to change part of their attitudes during their episodes of ill health, it would make doctors much more happy not just on one day, but throughout the year – a fact that is definitely to the advantage of those at the receiving end of the doctor’s ministrations.

If you want to truly make your doctor happy, here are a few things you could try.
  • Tell your symptoms once to the doctor and then wait for him to diagnose what the problem is. Don’t keep repeating yourself – he is intelligent enough to understand what you’re saying the first time he hears it. Your repetition only clutters his mental space and is more likely to interfere with his decision making process than actually do any good.
  • Answer the doctor’s questions with precision; don’t ramble on and on about how you feel so miserable
  • Don’t blow up your symptoms in a bid to gain sympathy from the doctor or to convince her of the gravity of your problem – you may end up getting diagnosed with something you don’t have.
  • Don’t use your half-baked knowledge (from the experience of a friend or relative) or the selective interpretation you’ve made using Google Guru on the doctor. She has trained for a minimum of 7 to 8 years on her subject and knows a lot about it – your contribution to her knowledge base is negligible to say the least and if she doesn’t give you a piece of her mind when you act too smart, its only out of good-natured tolerance.
  • Follow the doctor’s advice faithfully, stay observant of the changes in your condition and report back accurately. It’s your responsibility to recover, not your doctor’s – so be a partner in your recovery process.
  • Asking if a drug will cause side effects is a foolish question. When you choose to introduce a chemical into your body, there is bound to be some or the other discomfort. Your doctor will have weighed the pros and cons of a particular drug before administering it to you. There are no free lunches anywhere – especially not in medicine. By all means ask about any serious effects to watch out for and how to combat them – but the world won’t end if you suffer from a little indigestion or mild drowsiness for a day or two.
  • If you believe a particular treatment will work for you, it is more likely to really work – that is called the “Placebo effect.” But be warned – research is increasingly showing that the reverse can also occur – there is something called the “Nocebo effect”: if you approach the medication the doctor prescribes with the fear that it will cause side effects – it probably will. If you’ve made a habit of taking the prescribed treatment with the foreboding that it will not work, no second or third or zillionth opinion is going to make a difference.
  • Don’t expect the doctor to work miracles – she is not God.
  • Because he is also human, a doctor needs time to rest and get away from his profession at least occasionally. Don’t corner him with your health problems when you meet him in social situations. If you’re really suffering, book an appointment at the clinic or the hospital where he’s practicing.

All these things that I have pointed out are not rocket science – they are more like common sense to me. But then, like they say, “Common sense is not so common.” And then, it become even more uncommon when you’re stressed with ill-health and the emotional effects of the illness. So, I’ve taken the liberty of giving these pointers. If there is indeed any doctor reading this piece – this is my way of saying, “Thank you, dear doctor.”

Disclaimer: One of my sisters is a physician and another a psychiatrist; a close cousin is an orthopedic surgeon. This piece is entirely based on my understanding of their experiences and some common sense that comes out of being a pharmacist myself. Therefore, there is a definite tilt in my perception of these issues. Having diligent doctors in the family means that I have not really been exposed to situations arising out of interaction with the few irresponsible healthcare practitioners who also, unfortunately, exist in the medical fraternity.