About Nurses – The Downtrodden Caretakers, Sacrificial Pawns & Forgotten Heroes

The death of Lini Puthussery because of the Nipah virus should have thrown the spotlight on the precarious lives and living conditions of the nursing community in India, but beyond mere sympathies and as a news item and TRP booster for TV channels, nothing else has come out of her heroic sacrifice. The Government of India and Kerala seems to have already moved past her death. No cure has been found for the virus yet, even though outbreaks of the virus have happened in the past. In spite of this, Lini and other nurses were forced to attend to the people who had contracted the virus at the risk of their own lives.

What nurses do is social and community service and I have observed that such people are treated with far less respect than they deserve to get. Arvind Kejriwal is probably the only head of any state India has ever had with a distinguished background and credibility of social service (for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award), yet people does not seem to have much respect and regard for him. Same goes for the nursing community as well. Hospitals are the only places where people forget all divides and unite irrespective of age, gender, skin color, caste and religion and nurses are the guardians of these hospitals and the angels who sacrifice their lives for the patients. But I grew up seeing guys eager for hospital visits if anyone they know are sick, to eat food from the hospital canteen at the expense of the relatives of the sick person and to ogle at nurses. Nurses are treated as so downtrodden that most of them become extremely strong mentally and emotionally otherwise they wouldn’t be able to survive without any self esteem. Nursing is a profession that is always in demand and the need for qualified and experienced nurses is perpetual. This has propelled millions of families in Kerala to educate daughters in their households in nursing courses with the hope of sending them abroad for jobs. The onus of taking these families out of their dire situations and bringing prosperity are burdened on the shoulders of these young girls. Their trouble doesn’t end here though. Many guys look to marry these nurses working abroad as their visa to a life abroad without having to work and earn, a fact that has been highlighted satirically in many Malayalam movies.

Nurses and soldiers belong to the same category of citizens of any country, the ‘Expendables Community’. They are the ones who are supposed to lay down their lives in the line of duty to protect the people of the country. It is said that the people of the country sleeps in peace because of the soldiers who protect the country’s borders. I have often wondered, from what or whom? Apparently, India does not have friendly relationship with China, yet I got the visa to travel to Shanghai to do a one year MBA course with an international business school. I have made many friends and contacts there and the hostility between countries never extended to the human to human level. This hostility is limited only to government and political levels and soldiers have always had to give up their lives at the behest of the rulers of the land.

But the nurses partake in wars at a very different level. The war of survival of humanity. These are wars every living being is part of in nature, to survive and be a dominant species. We still do not know the purpose of more than 90% of our DNA which clearly shows how little we know about the bacteria and viruses that inhabit our world and their evolution. The more medicines we are finding for diseases the more viruses are becoming resistant to medicines along with evolving themselves into new unknown strains. The war we are waging with nature is for the survival of our species rather than for victory and nurses are the pawns who are sent out to the front to protect us and die for us.

It is the nurses who deserve the highest respect and honor any country can bestow upon it’s citizens. Instead, they are struggling because their profession is one among the lowest paid in India and not every nurse gets to make a life abroad. Many of them are not even getting enough salaries to repay the educational loans they have taken to study the nursing courses. The country should not forget the poignant letter Lini wrote to her husband before her death and her sacrifice should not go in vain. The Government of India should honor her with the highest possible civilian award and the Government of Kerala should extend it’s support to her family and children in every possible ways. This I believe will be the stepping stone towards a brighter and dignified future for the nursing community of the country.

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Our star shines in the nether world now

We lost this girl 4 days back.

 

 

 

Exactly 11 years back, we brought Judy home along with Tommy.

 

 

 

 

 

Prostrate cancer took Tommy away from us 5 years back. Both were apples of my mom’s eyes and they were vying for her attention all the time. Mom was devastated after Tommy left but Judy’s presence kept her afloat. It’s kind of weird, but everyone in my family has a mind of his/her own and we never agree on most of the things. My granny was like a radio, there was no point trying to tell or convince her about anything. What is astonishing is, every pet we have had, be it dogs, cats and even a cuckoo bird, all of them imbibed this personality automatically.

Tommy and Judy used to know each and every activity inside the house, especially what mom does. They used to disappear the moment they understood that mom was getting medicines ready for them. They would try to keep their heads away from her sight as much as they can. If they had a chance to bury their heads in the ground they would have. Both of them used to sleep as close to mom as they could at night and Judy used to do periodic patrolling inside the house and around mom to make sure nothing were there to disturb her sleep. There is a reason why dogs get attached to us so much. Tommy and Judy were taken away from their mothers when their mothers were still nursing them. They came home and mom started feeding them so mom became mother to them. There is no love bigger and more envious than the love between a mother and her child. Even in his death bed and in his last moments, he was constantly looking at mom. Ditto with Judy as well. We made sure we were around her all the time so that she wouldn’t miss her family in her last hours.

Love in the animal world is straight and simple. Feed them and take care of them and they will give their complete loyalty in return. Their love is unconditional unlike in the human world. What pets do in our lives is something unique and special. They fill up spaces in our lives left behind by other human beings. Parents, siblings, family members, friends; pets make sure that we do not miss them. How do they do this? By constantly seeking our attention. They know when we are sad and need to be left alone and when we should not be alone. We believe animals are less intelligent than us. Most of our knowledge is built from our education system and what we experience in our society which has been created on the concept of wealth. The knowledge that animals possess is rooted in nature which is why they understand love, empathy and compassion much more than us.

Why does death hurt every living being? It’s just not us; every animal displays remorse at the passing of their loved ones. There are two things that happen when a beloved one passes away. We can no longer communicate with that person and most importantly we can never see each other again. This is what hits us first, especially after the funeral. Before this sinks in, we start missing that person and what hurts the most are the little things. Judy used to constantly move around inside the house and keep shifting her resting places. Her footfalls could be heard most of the time. Now there is a certain deathly silence.

What we need to understand is that our comprehension abilities are limited through our 5 senses. We were created with the knowledge that if we understood the entire process and cycle of life and death, we would become reckless beings and would never respect the rules of the Universe. If I knew when and how I was going to die and what would happen to me after death, I would live my life out without care rather than respect the time I have and everything life has given to me. This is why the entire system of life and death has been restricted to us. But as we approach death, that world opens out to us; especially in cases where people have lived out their lives and are dying of old age. My grandpa had a big wide smile on his face as he took his last breath. Death is release from the agony and miseries of our physical existence. Our souls are chained to our bodies just like we put birds and animals in cages. This is why I despise seeing any animal in chains or inside cages because their sufferings are doubly ignominious.

My dad reminisces about all the pets he has had from his childhood and keeps wondering where they are now. Of all the 7 billion people in the world, why do we know only the people we know? Out of them, very few become our best friends and soul mates. Why did we pick Tommy and Judy out of all the big bunch of babies that were there? It is impossible to believe and accept that all of this is random selection. There has to be some sort of connection that brings two people or a person and an animal together. When I look back at all the friends I have made, none of them seem to be random connections. It just happened with each one of them without any explanations. I thought about one of them yesterday and lo and behold, I see his call on my mobile in the evening. I keep telling dad that his beloved pets are just no longer in the physical form; they are in the form of energy and are everywhere. Our beloved ones become our guardian angels when they go to the spirit world and in the spirit form they will have a lot more influence in protecting us. We will not see them in the same form again. They discarded it when they left. But they will always be with us. I don’t miss any of my beloved ones because I have realized that there is no going away. We are eternally connected through space and time and once we realize and accept this, the boundary between life and death will vanish from our minds. We need to actually look forward to the end of our physical existence so that we could be with our beloved ones again.

Judy, my girl, be at peace wherever you are. We buried your body but your memories will be with us till we go to our own graves. Till we meet again in the spirit world…..

My tribute to a friend who walked into the sunset

The news of any death is disturbing. If the death is of someone we know, the feeling is more pronounced. The death of a family member is devastating. But what hurts the most is the passing on of a friend. A friend and classmate from school of mine chose to move on quietly into afterlife yesterday night. The end was in sight, a cancer that was diagnosed at stage 4 two years back had battered and ravaged his body to the bones. He had held on with all the strength he could muster but the killer disease got the better of him eventually. It is quite an overwhelming feeling for me. When someone who grew up with us leaves the world it does leave a gaping hole in our minds.

I have always asked myself what is so special about friends. I used to always think that we don’t even have the choice to choose our parents and the families we are born into so what control will we have over our lives. Then I read somewhere that we choose the lives we want to live because there are things we need to learn from this world. With families, we need to meet their expectations, have respect, emotional bonds, gratitude and obligations. With friends, absolutely nothing. Zero. The relationship just grows like magic. We just need to be there for each other. Even regular conversations are not required. As we grow older, we realize and accept the fact that our parents and relatives will leave the world before us under normal circumstances. The ones we grow old with are with our friends. Maybe that’s why it feels like a part of me has gone with him.

A trivial and silly squabble had led to the breakdown of our friendship in school. I had a lot to deal with after we finished school and I got engrossed in working out my life. I got to know that he was married and settled with a kid and I was really happy for him. That the marriage had broken down and he was under severe stress for a long time became known to me only when he told me 2 years back, after his cancer was diagnosed. I knew the reason for the cancer instantly. Articles explaining the real reason for cancer are being revealed now on social media. The science behind it was discovered way back in the 1920s but it had been suppressed till now because the pharmaceutical industry has been beefing up their bank accounts at the expense of our lives. When our body becomes more acidic, our cells become starved for oxygen and that’s how they turn cancerous. Radiation treatment kills only more good cells than the cancerous ones. The stressful life he led must have had made changes to his body that eventually turned out to be his killer.

It dawned on me a little too late. I know that if I had not let him out of my sight, he would have been alive and living his life fully now. People will say that this was his destiny but I will never be able to wrap my brains around the concept of destiny. Even the existence of the Universe depends on mathematical probability so why is it not possible that we are presented with a number of possibilities before us and the choices we make defines our road ahead? He was easily the best student in my batch but the idiot never saw it. He was the one I always wanted to top the class, not because he was my friend, but I knew he had it in him.

I had an extremely disturbing night yesterday. I felt as if someone had woken me up from my sleep. After I went back to sleep, I saw vividly in my dream that I was bidding farewell to someone. I didn’t see who it was though I knew it was a guy. I was shaking his hand and hugging him before sending him in a lift. And the first thing I saw today morning on Facebook was the post about his demise. Coincidence? Or did he really come to say good bye? I may never know. My friend, no one stays in this world forever. My time will come too, in some time. In a way, I am glad that you have finally attained freedom from the insurmountable pain you have had to endure. Be at peace now. This sinful world and its miseries hold no more relevance to you. Au revoir my friend…..till we meet again.

A remarkable true saga of love

As the world celebrates Valentine’s Day with great fervor every year, spins fantasy tales on immortal love and comes up with new and innovative ways to showcase popular love sagas like Romeo and Juliet, one remarkable real life love story has been unfolding in a remote hamlet in Kerala for the past 60 plus years. The world outside the hamlet didn’t know about it till someone heard and went to find the truth. Today, the same man has shot a documentary about it and made a magnum opus blockbuster movie that is enthralling the people from Kerala across the world. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennu_Ninte_Moideen)

Unsurprisingly, the common thread this story shares with all the other love tales is, this one is also tragic but in a very unique way. It has all the ingredients of classic forbidden love. It’s the 1950s, Muslim boy, Hindu girl, both from rich and well respected families known to each other. Friendship from childhood turns into something more as adolescence blossoms. The families get wind of the blooming romance and the girl’s family snaps its wings. She is put under imprisonment in her house for 25 long years. They keep communicating through secret letters smuggled in and out of her house. At the age of 44, he tragically drowns in the local river when he was trying to save people from a capsized boat. She lives on in his memory, saved by his mother’s words from suicide and dedicating her life to charity. Without writing more about it, here is the link to the documentary with English subtitles. It is truly heartbreaking. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFQm8nBvY2c)

There is something very important to learn from this story. Before we talk about love, we need to know how love can endure and stand the test of time. Their friendship started during childhood, when they had no expectations from each other. When such a relationship grows, there is no physical desire. They simply accepted each other as they are. But the key was to understand each other’s feelings and the need for togetherness and companionship they had for each other. Consummating their love by getting married and having kids was not paramount. If that was the case, one of the two would have had surely lost patience with time and slipped out of the relationship. Most importantly, they chose to be good friends and companions to each other. This is why their love has endured, because it was free of expectations and desires. I can vouch for this. Even though my feelings were never understood, they still live on inside me. Most people who claim to be in love are in illusion because their love is loaded with expectations. That is why we speak mostly about divorces, separations and breakups and couples still together after many years are looked at with curiosity. When more people believe in the 7 year itch theory, this is not the world for true love anymore.

Well, they say if we truly desire something, the entire Universe will come together to fulfill it for us. Then why were these two kept separated all their lives? It is really hard to fathom. Love is an extremely complex emotion. Maybe our souls do know true love but the constraint the society enforces on us suppresses most of our natural abilities and true desires. That is probably why true love is far and few because most people do not understand true love when they see it and maybe why all those love stories end in tragedy. Our bodies are just physical vehicles for our souls to learn and evolve. Science says everything in the Universe is a manifestation of the vibration of the sub atomic particles. If this is true, then true love has to bring two souls into synchronicity. Then I need not despair about the lonely love bird in the hamlet. Her soul is just waiting for time to take her to be with his soul. I am yet to watch the movie but this is one I will not miss.

Fame, alcohol and a tragic end to a great man

All greatness in this world has come at a cost and most of it has been hidden cost. Many among us drool over and criticize rock stars for their drugs, sex and rock and roll lifestyle. But what we don’t do is to find out how they end up living such lives. Climbing up the ladder of life is one thing but staying on top is a different beast. Well, there is no course in the world that teaches fame management. If we are striving for success without knowing what to do with it when we achieve it, we are in for a lot of trouble. The first objective is to know when we have peaked in life and then accept that we are no longer going up so we need to rechart our lives. I learnt this lesson from the life of Mark Knopfler. He broke up Dire Straits when the band was at it’s peak and was topping every music chart in the world. Why? Because Brothers in Arms is a phenomenal album which he may have realized he could not better. His decision was justified when he returned in 1991 with a new album which did not match up to the dizzying heights of Brothers in Arms as was expected. He achieved the fame he wanted to but was smart enough to chart a new course for his life. He still makes music but the music he wants to make and not what people expect him to make under the label of Dire Straits. But I guess most people who achieve greatness do not understand the need to scale down and stay consistently successful. They bask in the glory of their success and let life slip out of their hands. I know two people whose lives peaked and ended in identical fashion but in very different ways.

Someone who was like a father figure to me passed away yesterday after a prolonged battle with liver cirrhosis. He was affectionately called ND by everyone. Born into abject poverty, he rampaged his way through school on scholarship and then finished his engineering degree on scholarship as well. A truly remarkable achievement by the highest standards. When all his friends went for lucrative jobs in the marine industry, he went to Dubai and found his feet. He worked in one company for 25 long years, got married, got his sisters married, got his wife’s sisters married, got jobs for his cousins in Dubai, got them married and settled, built his own house, got his kids educated, saved money for the family and most important of all, took absolute care of his mother. He surpassed expectations so much that he managed to do things beyond one man’s capabilities in a lifetime. When I was growing up, I was always told to look up to him and see how he takes care of his responsibilities. His life was similar to my grandfather’s in many ways. With no job and no money, grandpa left for Calcutta during the peak of World War II and found his life there. He worked his way into Dunlop and had an cracker of a professional life there.
Both dragged their life downhill in similar ways as well. When they thought they were finished with their responsibilities, both decided to return to their hometown, the same place they had to leave and go in search of a good life elsewhere. They returned without any specific objectives, hoping to live a calm and retired life. Both didn’t realize that after living high profile lives in cities for so long, life in a town would eat away their minds. My grandpa spent his last years with a slipping mind, the only reason for him to hold on was me. ND veered down into a road of self destruction. He tried his hand at business and failed badly. Then a monotonous life of doing nothing took over his mind terribly. He was a normal drinker and he took to alcohol to drown out his mind without peace. He was neither an alcoholic nor depressed. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. His path crossed with my grandpa once again during this time. Out of nowhere, his friends called him to Singapore to work. Without any responsibilities left, it was his passport to freedom, to start life again and end it in a blaze of glory. I begged him to take it up but sadly he didn’t. Dunlop had given my grandpa a two year contract to work in the UK when he took retirement and he had also refused.
From then on, it was only a matter of when it would all end. When I met ND recently after his liver had given upon him, he told me that all his responsibilities were over and there was no need for him to be alive anymore. That will always be one of the saddest moments of my life. All I could ask him was that he has left everyone a legacy of how one man can shape the lives of so many people around him. Does he want to leave behind a legacy of such a death as well? I saw his eyes welling up with tears and he asked me to leave. I knew he had realised it was all too late.
What I would really miss about him is the way he would question me with stern eyes and then melt down and give me a sly smile with a sparkle in his eyes. The prospect of facing his wrath was one of the reasons why I could never take the risk of slipping in my life. People may say that he drunk himself to his death and that he is not a good example to follow, but those people are either short sighted or never knew him for who he was. He just made one mistake in his life. He didn’t take a moment out of his life to look what is around him and ask himself “What is it that I really want to do?”. Did he want to explore the world? Take photographs? Paint? Create music? Make food? We will never know. He was unwavering in his focus towards his family but he was totally blind about himself. He just went with the flow and thought he was enjoying life, but he wasn’t. No one can truly appreciate life unless we know what our true capabilities and interests are and how we will truly fit in this world. He may only be remembered as the one who was born to rescue his family and that will give no justice to the man he was and the immense skills and attitude he had to face life. He leaves a huge lesson for everyone to learn and a huge hole in my heart. For a man who achieved so much in so less time, this was not the way to go. He deserved a much better farewell. If his soul has awakened, I am sure he is not going to be at peace for such an inglorious end.
ND, respect and honour. Your life will continue to inspire me and keep me focused on my family and friends. I will see you in the plains of afterlife. Till then, au revoir.

When a sport turns into angel of death

The freak accident that happened to Australian cricket player Philip Hughes during a domestic game and his untimely demise has sent shock waves through the entire sports fraternity across the globe. Loss of life during any game is a rarity and that too in cricket happens once in a blue moon. Last time it happened in my memory was with an Indian player quite a long time back. Every time death leaves its calling card in the sports arena, it also leaves behind incredible smog of sadness. Every sport is intended to entertain people and that is why every game is played so competitively. This is precisely the reason there is so much grief among people from all walks of life at this tragedy. Several perspectives are being pondered over about how this incident could have been avoided, but I believe we need to first look at some of the basic factors.

The tragedy of Philip Hughes will be a case to be studied closely, not just from the medical perspective . I am not a cricket expert by any yard but I have played and watched cricket long enough to get my basics right. When I first read that he was hit behind the left side of his head, it seemed improbable to me because he was a left handed player and the only probability was to get hit on the right side. But when I saw the video, it fell into place. He had played the pull shot too early and had missed the ball and as his body swung towards the left side, the ball crashed into his head. This is the interesting part. Here, it was not his lack of cricketing skill that caused the accident. Most probably, it was a lapse in concentration. When facing up to a fast bowler, batsmen have to make those split second decisions about how they are going to play each ball and they have to do this continuously for 6 times in an over. Any lapse in concentration is going to create an error in judgement. I am quite sure that most of the time a batsman gets hit on the helmet, it is because of lapse in concentration.

The bouncer is the weapon all fast bowlers use to intimidate the batsmen. But the bouncer is just a distraction to punch holes in the batsman’s concentration. The trick is to unsettle him and then get him out with a perfectly good delivery. I believe the bouncer should be taken as a breather against the otherwise relentless attack by the bowler to get the batsman out. The focus should be on what is coming after the bouncer. In the days when cricket was played without much protective gear including the helmet, taking evasive action was the only way to escape from the bouncer. But with the advent of protective gear, batsmen go out to play like robots wearing something to protect for every part of their body. No doubt protective gear gives players more confidence be it any sport, but this gain in confidence must not be at the cost of losing skill, temperament and concentration. I have seen many a times players allowing the ball to hit their bodies because protective gear is bearing the brunt. Cricket is a game played between bat and ball and true skill is to try to play every ball bowled with the bat.

Our skills in any area, be it in education or sports, is like integral calculus. As we start off, the limits of our abilities are from zero to infinity. Our growth graph is a bell curve. As we keep going forward, we keep getting better and we reach the point when we are at our best. But we do not stay there for long. The curve starts sloping down. The point where we were at our best becomes our upper limit. From then on, our intent should always be to target our best performances and not beyond it. We may get better scores than what we got in our best performances, but that is because we are always trying to match our best performance. This is why players keep watching videos of their best past performances. It is all in our minds and the mindset with which we approach an exam or a game. The mindset we had when we were at our best is what we should try to create again in our minds. Sachin Tendulkar is one of the players I have seen who has always tried to play with the same mindset of his best performances. This is the reason why he became such a great player and not because he was pushing himself to improve his performance every time. Ayrton Senna is someone I believe who gave up his life trying to push himself too hard. Philip Hughes had the tenacity and temperament to become a great player but maybe his development towards “always in the zone” was not complete yet.

As the world mourns the loss of this promising young man, we should also spare a thought to the young bowler, Sean Abbott.  Just as they say a bullet takes two lives, of the victim and that of the shooter, the error in judgement Hughes made has taken his own life and left a permanent impact in Sean’s life. Nobody would want to be in Sean’s shoes at the moment. Nobody plays the game with even the remote thought that the ball he bowls could take a life of a fellow player. It would be nothing short of a miracle if he returns to being the player he was. The possibility of hurting someone when playing this game is something that may have scarred his mind permanently. I hope all the efforts Cricket Australia is putting in rehabilitating him truly help him.

As debates rage over the role of protective gear, I believe this is a good opportunity for all sportsperson to revaluate their dependence on protective gear and focus on improving their skills. This is also a good opportunity to bring into perspective the usage of short pitched bowling to distract and unsettle batsmen. Mitchell Johnson was at his intimidating best during the last Ashes and Australia-South Africa series. He did manage to get some of players hurt badly with the way he bowled. Though the game must be played competitively, it must not come at the cost of injuring players which will only tarnish the name it has of being a gentleman’s game. Aussies play the game the only way they know: tough, hard and fast. Maybe it was this attitude towards the game that ultimately undid Hughes. He may have tried too hard, that’s why he played the pull shot for that fateful delivery before the ball reached him.

In a way, it was good for him that he did not survive the accident. A complete recovery from such a serious medical condition may not have been possible at all. Michael Schumacher’s accident during skiing and his slow recovery is ample proof. There wouldn’t have been a more wretched and cursed life than the life of an invalid or a life away from the cricketing field at such a young age, especially after playing in the most competitive cricket team in the world.

Let us all unite to celebrate a man who chose his passion to be his life, gave us memories to cherish and left the world with an everlasting impact on everyone’s lives. May God bless Philip Hughes and may his soul be at peace. Amen.

My ode to a great teacher

This is the first blog of my life. I have never kept an account of my life till now, but something happened lately that has stirred me to write. Someone very dear to me left this world quietly a few weeks back. To the world, he has been and will always be a great teacher, but he taught me way beyond Chemistry. He took me under his wings and made me undergo one of the most intense classes I have ever had. I can say that it was him who propelled me single handedly into my Engineering degree.

What made him a cut above the rest was his unswerving commitment to excel every time despite all the odds. An open heart surgery would immobilize anyone, but not him. The third day he is back from the hospital, he is climbing stairs and taking three hour lectures. He was always in his own world, to the extent that he never used to wear shoes or sandals till a piece of glass cut his feet open. He was not just an ocean of knowledge, he was amazingly resilient, dedicated and above all, he was an excellent manager. He knew how to make each student perform and what would work with them. The way he used to set up competition among students in different classes was amazing.

The first thing I did when I got admission for MBA was to go and seek his blessings. His body had broken down almost completely, but he was still taking classes. His mind would not find any rest unless he was teaching. He put both his hands on my head and blessed me to go out to the world and succeed. I etched his face in my mind one last time as I wasn’t sure if I would meet him again. My fear came true when I got to know that he is not there to take classes anymore.

When I met him, somewhere inside, I felt that he had to go. He had to take rest but he wouldn’t listen to anyone. I am sure he must have crossed swords with the Almighty for pulling him away from doing what he was meant to do. Wherever he goes, he carries the gratitude and prayers of his thousands of students and their parents. I am blessed to have been his student and it is a legacy I will carry proudly on my chest till the end of my life.

Thank you sir.