Her conversations with the Ocean

I am sipping tea, and we’re standing between Mumbai and Vadodara, somewhere on the highway. Everyone’s sleeping in the bus, after all, it’s 3 AM and we’re tired after a long day, an exhaustive performance, so much travel, and a workshop on ‘voice and speech’. We travelled by bus, a team of 10 people, to a festival which was competitive in nature. We came back with a merit and few words of appreciation. An experience to remember.

With 2 nights of constant travel, the driver needed rest. We halted. I stepped out. Behind me came one of my youngest team mates, ‘you know, paranormal activity happens between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM’ he said. “Is it?” I inquired curfc423c07-032b-4240-bf74-bdedc28957a3iously, with a smile. Another colleague got down and joined me for tea, “It’s 3:30 AM” I smiled, “eerie time to be awake huh?”;  “Perhaps!” said the 15 year old.  “But we have the moon with us! The light will help.” said my colleague, and we looked up to the sky. Interestingly mesmerizing, was the view of the moon. We stood in silence, sipping tea and drawing inferences. I could hear the ocean, distant. I could also hear the winds, in conversation.

Theatre is like an ocean” my colleague had said in the workshop, where the mentor asked us why we do theatre. Theatre is like a ocean. “Why would you say that?” I ask him now, in an afterthought. He says, “It’s beyond the purview of our common sight.”  “You may read a dailogue and simply speak it out, but the depths that lie in each word, need a lot more of reading between the lines, flowing between the lines to really comprehend.” He says, in a matter of fact manner.

I knew, I always knew it is beyond.

In fact, in one of my childhood poems I had a line about my dreams (theatre), it ended on the sentence, ‘I know it calls me far beyond, than where I walk to it.”

In this journey, it called me beyond my limits, my language, my identity, my perspectives, my belief systems, and my spirituality too.

Something like Love.

We begin our journeys in love with a certain belief system. With a certain expectation. With a certain idea. For some it’s traditional, for some it’s free spirit – but ultimately, it is a belief system. And when that doesn’t work, we either feel rejected or we feel dejected. Isn’t it?

For one thing, I have always been liberal, generous, and spontaneous. I have been loving, and caring too. I have centred my life, around love. I have made it a priority too. And still I find myself, disappointed in some ways. Though, happy in some too.

Happy because I centred my life around love, but it wasn’t one love.

Yes! As disturbing, ironical, disgraceful as that may sound – it wasn’t one love. I centred my life around love for my people and love for my work. I centred my life around my romance with a person and with an idea.

In most cases, the ideas survived, the person taught me something more about life and left. The disappointment isn’t so much in leaving, as much as how the goodbyes happen.  This song perfectly defines it, ‘Mana ke hum yaar nahi”, where she says “raaste mein jab milo toh, hath milane ruk jana.” Effectively, yes, we aren’t friends anymore but can we still greet eachother on the crossroads of life? In respect of our past. Let’s begin with believing that we were right people, just different in opinion and expectations; is it possible to achieve this each time we are disappointed in people?

And perhaps that’s where my disappointment lies. In the love that despises, rejects, turns away and disowns. Like you never existed. Like life, goes on, like it never mattered and it never counted. Do we really need to be heartless to be strong? Do we have to be free from emotions to be brave?alia-bhatt_640x480_71478076956

But then, even as these questions persists, the answers lie in the second love. More often than not, I found that these encounters smooth out, that people do come back in one way or the other. It’s rare that someone who mattered too much to you, walked out and you never saw or heard of them again. Even in death, one will certainly walk to the funeral of the other. I especially like that scene in the movie, Dear Zindagi, the last scene, when Kyra makes her film and at the premiere, are each of her past flames. Putting their past behind them and respecting that journey, you seem them cheer her on.alia-bhatt-4

And you can see, what has set her free! It wasn’t another ‘shoulder’; it wasn’t another person, but her romance with life, her love for her work.

Yes, there was a Shahrukh Khan in Dear Zindagi too.

A special friend, a special bond that helped her find her calling, her ‘second love’ (her work), but it didn’t take away anything from her own journey. The interaction helped her define her own ways and routes, and in the end, that’s what we need to strive for.

“It’s 4 AM” says my 15 year old friend, “What are you thinking so much?”

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Applause Vadodara at BHAVAI 2017, Mumbai

“Nothing” I reply, “just about our Play!”  The play, Kundalu by Makarand Musale, was about 3 characters: “A” who is stuck in his circle and strongly believes that life is meant to be lived in limits, “B” who is trying to understand the limits while being curious about the horizons beyond and “C” who has lived a life of explorations, beyond the questions, followed the heart, respected the struggles and cherished the journey.

“Ah! You were thinking about the end right? Which path did B chose? The life of security or the life of discovery!” he asks excitedly.

Our play din’t have an end, and left it to the imagination of the audience, which path to take.

“Whichever way you go, just don’t get stuck in the same circle” adds my colleague, as the three of us walk back to the bus.06068cfb-e9ff-421e-b53c-b597dd75f5e1

I smile on the inference, it’s ultimately about growing, becoming better, stronger, wiser and closer to the  self, and not make the same mistakes.  It’s about breaking the limits – the circles, the loops that twine our thoughts, confuse our actions and end up limiting our journey. Like the performing the play, Kundalu, taught us.

Taking it a little further…

Don’t get into the loops that chain you. Set yourself free.

Continue to love, though you can love differently.

Let there be romances,

Just make sure there are two 😉

One with the person

And one with you!

 

As I get back into the bus, I can hear the ocean call me. They are both my love and my friendship. My passion, my theatre, my romance as well as my companion, my listener and my lyric.

She as1ked the ocean,

“What do you see?”

He said “I see footsteps,

And a long journey”.2

She asked the ocean,

what is sunset?

He smiled, it’s the beginning,

for a new day you must rest.

She asked the ocean, “where do you head?3

Will I see you again or is this an end?”

He returned in response, as a gentle touch, as a wave,

“You can see me when you want, I am right where you left.”

4

She asked the ocean,

“What language do you speak?”

He answered in a riddle,

“Ask your heart what it seeks.”

‘S5he asked the ocean,

“what is love and what is friendship?”

He answered with comfort,

“that my waves merge in deepness is love,

and that is return is friendship”

~ Apsra

And let me leave you with the song that I mentioned earlier, and while you hear it, please pen down your thoughts in the comments or write to me at apsara.iyengar@gmail.com.

Lots of love, always!

Apsara

 

Satyamev Jayate – A Story Of A Patient From Baroda Hospital

I wrote this post way back in September – almost 9 months back. Never posted it because I didn’t think people would be interested to read, that it would be received properly, that it would be okay for me to speak up…… but today, SatyaMev Jayate has encouraged me to share this story.  A patient from Baroda, and an observer in me; here goes:

 18th September, 2011

 I am an optimist. I may be sad or low or I may just start crying… but I am an optimist at heart.

 When I walk into an office, my first instance is to believe that I am in a noble place. That the people there are sincere. That the work they do is honest. That they wish to do well and do just.

 But something really moved me yesterday.

 It all started last week.

 A friend sent me a text that his mother is in the government hospital, admitted to the ICU because of a high diabetic condition. I decided to pay a visit and offer to help.  I just had the regular “Hey bud! Lemme know if you need anything!” and the “Hey Mate! Don’t worry… all will be fine.” – Dialogues ready in my head.  But when I stepped in there, I just couldn’t leave.

 This was the government hospital of Baroda – the place where people from all over Gujarat come for treatment. There are patients from far of districts and even other states like Rajasthan; who come here with faith to be cured.

My first feeling was optimism.

 We take my friend’s mom to the first ward.  The doctor looks at the swollen foot and says, “Take her to the other department. This is a case of diabetes being severe. Control that first, and then come here.

We rush her to the other ward, and there the authorities tell us “the wound is severed. The swelling is critical. First aid is required. The leg has to be dealt with first, before we look begin with treatment for diabetes.

 My otherwise troublesome friend is rather quiet and I step in, “they have just sent us here. So, it would be really nice if you could confirm where we are to go”. My friend rushes to the other surgical department, to the doctor to bring him to this department so that treatment can begin soon.  The doctor comes, comments “well!! I sent her here because it was your case of diabetes … but if you are not taking her, we will start our procedures. She anyway has to be admitted.”

 

My instinct is disturbed by the lack of coordination.

 

But then I watch as the doctors sending us to the ward; the interns scolding my friend for not getting the syringe in time ( ; ) ), the doctors doing the rounds and I helping in the tests – I feel  like appreciating the work.  I feel overwhelmed thinking of how they are working in this set up; treating the underprivileged, giving their whole to so many patients.

 After spending the weekend there, I return home thinking- yes! The system may be flawed, but it still isn’t all shallow and hollow. There are people working for humanity. There are people doing their job really well. There are people who are passionate and care. I felt good about the treatment meted to my friend’s mother.

 However, my happiness was soon to be tainted.

 The following day, I was discussing the case with a colleague. I had previously done some social work in terms of copy writing, for his Grandfather’s trust. He brought to my notice that since the trust operated close to the Hospital, and since my friend’s mom was in the same hospital, I should refer the case to them at least once before the surgery that was scheduled in the afternoon.

 Well! It made sense. No harm in getting one more perspective on the case. I reached the hospital with agenda but to be greeted by my friend, in tone of happiness. “Apsara!! All is fine now! Mom is being discharged.”

 I am pleasantly surprised and credit all the ‘good news’ to the positive colors that I am wearing : )

 We walk down to pay the bills. On the way, I look at the trust office and suggest having a word them. Since everything was good now, we could just tell the people at the trust that all is fine. My colleague has after all, taken the trouble to connect us.

  However, from that point onwards, everything changed.

 The NGO people meet us with great warmth and positivity and my colleague’s grandfather volunteers with all the energy to look into the subject and to meet the doctors with us. He comes with us.

 He says, “Oh! Let’s meet the doctors if your mother is being discharged.

He walks straight in and asks about details.

 Apparently, the diabetic department that had given us “discharge on request” (despite us never making any such request) and the authority explains that they had to do this because they could not treat my friend’s mother for the ailment. It was the job of another department.

 The intern explains, “The lady was brought in a critical condition. We presumed that the swelling was because of a tissue infection. And the infection would have affected the bone. But; the swelling in the tissues occurred only in 2 – 3 days; which means that the bone could not have been infected by the tissue infection. For a bone to be infected, the condition has to be longer; for instance, in terms of months. So the fact is that the bone was initially infected and this infection spread to the tissues. Our department doesn’t deal with bone problems. The bone infection has to be cured by the orthopedic department and it must because that’s what has transferred contagion to the tissues.”

 So if there is a bone infection, why was she being discharged with a mere mention that there has to be regular dressing of the foot?

 And the answer is: THAT is not our work.

 The doctor explains, “The orthopedic department was not taking her. What can we do about it? So, our work is to deal with tissues. If they don’t admit her for a bone treatment, we have no option but to send her home and that’s what we were doing.

 My colleague’s grandfather, looks at us and says, “Don’t discharge her today. Stay a day. We’ll look into it and talk to the highest authorities.

 He takes us straight to the senior doctors and explains the case.

 Within 10 minutes, we are back in a ward and the 4 doctors are here to see her.

(The reason is the NGO. The NGO is renowned for its good work. So, when they are associated with a case, they manage to get answers.)

 The doctor inspects the foot, confirms that my friend’s mother has to be shifted to the orthopedic department and the procedures begin in few minutes.

 I just stand there spell bound.

 I help in the processes and running about. I help in the shifting.

But deep within, I am terribly disturbed.

 Today, we were on the verge of committing a big mistake. We were taking my friend’s mom home with an almost fatal infection. We were going to quietly bring her for a dressing the foot – every day for perhaps a month- so that her open wound could heal (the incision that was made to inspect and clear the region with the swelling. And for records, the swelling has only partially subsided, and the foot looks far from normal).

 We were going to go home smiling, thinking that she was being discharged because thing were fine. Not knowing, that it was because there was no one to check and sign her papers.

 

 I had wondered last week, why I was there…. At the hospital… when I should actually be studying or working or doing something of personal importance… and yesterday I realized WHY.

It was so that I could open my eyes and see the world, not through tainted glasses.

 We, the educated, were going to fall prey to negligence, then what would be the case of the under privileged? The poor? The uneducated?

 I still feel, the doctors are doing a great job out there. Working hard day in and day out. Treating patients and healing them. But what disturbs me is the thin line between “work” and responsibility.

 There were professional’s out there, who were willing to let a patient suffer because it wasn’t a matter of their department.  Knowing well, that the condition could worsen, that it could lead to a critical amputation or extreme condition of the infection spreading in the entire body…. Knowing… that….. Sending this patient home is not the right thing to do…. They knew it…. But they were still about to go through with it.

 I never really wanted to be a doctor. And now I think, with the idealist that I am, I’d have suffered more if seniors around me were dealing with patients like this.The hope, however, lies in the hands of the young minds that are sincere and the experienced professionals from the field who are role models.

 I can understand the Munna Bhai MBBS dialogue, “Ek doctor ke liye ek mariz ek bimar sharer hai. Bus.” But… at the end of the day, that ill body is a human being.

I can understand them being un-moved by illnesses, by ailments, by these critical conditions. What I cannot understand is how they can be indifferent.

 I cannot understand how we can go to bed knowing that somebody is suffering before our eyes, and that we could do what was required to treat them.  This diabetic department/ surgical department may not be responsible for the procedure of curing……. But they could bring forth the case to the ortho-department.  

 The patient’s relatives on the other hand, suffer not just trauma but also confusion. They have to file papers, transfer papers, sign documents, get medicines, shift the patient themselves form one ward to the other and above all, remaining in the dark about what exactly is happening.  

 

The first thought that came to my mind was that, I am an Indian.

I have lived in this India.

I have walked the dirty streets, I have worked in dingy buildings and I have seen the sarkari daftar (slow working offices). I am still tolerant when it comes to postal, police and railway procedures … but this is a HOSPITAL. And this is a matter of life and death.  We just cannot be tolerant here.

 If you have managed to read this article and reach till this point, then here are two things:

  1. Pray for my friend’s mom : ) She’s still needs are good wishes and still needs to be treated for the bone condition
  2. Don’t be *starry* eyed and believe everything around you. Ask questions, be alert and HELP where you can. Perhaps you could help someone in pain and in need. It needs only an educated mind.        Please share this post.

 For now, I am too un-rich to be able to help this NGO in spreading the light, but when I can, I shall.  Until then, I am going to make posts like this, volunteer with time and spread the word.

 You can do the same and perhaps help someone in need.

 I guess the positive colors did work after all 😉 we met the Hari Om Seva Trust. And God bless them for the wonderful social service they are doing.

 

As Of Today: 26th May 2012

The Trust [Link to their Facebook Pagesharing the name and link on request]still operates in Baroda helping thousands of under privileged patients with subsidized health care medications and the correct information about their ailments.They host camps, educate and do a lot of voluntary service and have been recognized internationally.

My friend’s mom – finally underwent an amputation. The amputation was needed to avoid the infection from spreading. She walks with a Jaipur/false foot now and is fine.

 As for me, I am still *starry eyed*, yet wiser; have many questions [While at it, you can Like the blog page here: Half A Cup Of Tea. Please do!] I am still moved by instances and this is but, one story. If there’s anything you need me to help with, please feel free to get in touch.

 Inspired by cause addressed by Staya Mev Jayte – even if the series is making a lot of money, targeted for TRP, it’s still getting us to talk about subjects. Their success is justified, in the same way, as I bring out this post and justify sharing something like this without facing the wrath of society and “higher authorities”.

 Satya Mev Jayate – it’s the truth after all, why fear?

 

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