Be Angry at Anger!

Anger1

We have so many emotions like sadness, happiness, anger, sourness and so on. All the feelings are universal, but like everything in the world, in various countries emotions are expressed differently. Anger is an emotion that can sometimes make or break people. Some people cannot control their anger over small things, and the result can be devastating. How does the anger start? How far reaching the result of anger can be? Is it worth getting very angry in a situation?

I don’t think so. I am not an angry person, but I have a habit of calling a spade a spade. When I interact with some not so smart people regularly, at some stage, I lose my temper. But I am lucky that this anger stays with me for a small duration. But when some brilliant people do not understand something during a discussion, I get upset and utter something which I should avoid. I am hoping to reduce it, but it is a reflex reaction. I think that venting what you want to say is important; unless we vent it out, we will seethe with it.

I have sometimes felt furious in business meetings, but somehow I have managed not to let it damage my business. But these are infrequent occasions. But on a personal level, I tend to handle such situations without getting angry. Once I was driving during monsoon time; it was not raining, but some dirt got splashed on my glass. I operated the wipers. When I stopped at the next signal a guy on a bike came from the left side and started banging my window on the other side. I wound the glass down and asked him the reason. While I used the wiper, some water got sprinkled on him as my water nozzle position had got disturbed. He told me this. Immediately I profusely apologised with folded hands and said to him that before reaching the office I would get the nozzle corrected, and I did get it fixed. By apologising, I avoided the angry exchange of words.

Am I talking of anger management? Or am I talking anger containment? What is the reason we get angry? Getting angry is a natural emotion; if we can contain it then we may not be required to manage it! When we feel that something unfair or unjust has happened, our blood pressure goes up, and we get mad. Add to this the way our brain is wired; if our family was an angry family when we grew up, we are likely to get angry fast. There is the main culprit we have not discussed, the Ego! The words, “When I say something how can xxx say no to me?” Fine, you have said something, but there are different views on the subject. We forget this, and we get angry. People are going to give their opinions.

I was reading about the expression of anger in different countries in the world and was interesting to find that there is a great variety.

Some sportsmen show their anger when they perform poorly or exceedingly well. When doing well, it is more of excitement.

Germans use a term slap in the face or backpfeifengesicht. “It’s like you’re so furious with someone that you look at their face, and it’s as if their face is urging you to punch them. In Marathi, there is an equivalent term, “कानाखाली द्यावी असं वाटल !”

Ancient Greeks differentiated between short-term anger that doesn’t stick around (ὀργή or orge ) with long-lasting anger that’s permanent (μῆνις or menin).

In India, we have different anger for politicians or your boss. Indians keep personal and political anger separate. Indians also describe anger as sizzling anger as if some vegetable is thrown in boiling oil while cooking.

Labelling your anger is one of the ways of controlling anger. Like different teas and wines, the anger is also of a different variety. What this technique does is to ask yourself to define and name the type of your anger during various incidents. When we think about it, analyse it our mind goes away from actual anger. We have to reason and find out why you got angry. During this thinking, you may find that you made an error of judgment by getting angry. Sometimes you may find out that the intensity of anger was way above what was required. This thought process can be described as a tool which regulates your anger. It is equivalent of counting ten or maybe hundred! It is equal to deep breathing which allows us to divert our mind elsewhere.

During work, we come across some problems. Some define the issue as a huge problem. But when this problem is broken down into small units, for each module involved in the process, many time we realise that the scale is not massive. Similarly, if we break the event when we get angry, step by step breaking down may show that we should have got mad for only a part of that event.

You can name your anger and then it is possible that you will be able to avoid incidents of anger. I have talked about getting angry at some people who are not wise enough. They may keep on asking questions and still may end up making mistakes. I call this stupid anger. Such incidents used to happen with a colleague, regularly in office. He was required to go out of the office for work. I decided that I must accept that he is going to ask questions even if instructions are given in writing. I accepted this fact and asked him to give me a call any time he had doubts. He would call me in 80 % cases for taking a final decision about size, colour, price et al. I consoled myself by saying if he had not called in those 80 % cases, what could have happened. If he had erred in all these cases, I would have been much angrier. Now by calling me, he was only following my instructions! Anger events came down drastically.

Sometimes we want results quickly. I used to push my programming guys. In a hurry, they would say that the work was done. Hurry only led to customer issues later, leading to angry discussions. I stopped asking them and started allocating time estimate as per their judgment plus 25% more time. In 90 % of cases, there were no customer complaints hence less angry discussions. You can call this passenger train anger.

Like instant coffee, there is instant anger too! I used to get angry in some situations instantly. Maturity made me think of futility of such instant anger. Recently, I walked off a nasty situation. When I discussed this with a young friend, he said, “backpfeifengesicht or कानाखाली द्यावी असं वाटल !” Yes, maturity is important especially in work atmosphere where a lot of people are reporting to you. At the back of the mind, we are aware that colleagues will not argue hence one tends to get angry a little more frequently. But in such cases, we should think about empathy. Do we get angry with your near and dear ones so quickly? Do you get angry quickly with your pets? If the answer to both questions is “No” ….

When we meet to have a drink together, we raise the glasses and clink them to say cheers! In the angry situations, train your angry mind and cool mind to raise the glass and say a big CHEERS!

Modern Slum!

I have lived in Pune and Mumbai for most of my life. No doubt these are some of the better cities to live in India. Mumbai with its financial clout and Pune with its educational and cultural diversity are places people look forward to settling down. People feel that those who want to work will always find a job in these two cities. With this change, cosmopolitanism has captured roots in a big way in these cities. This change is especially felt in Pune as it had more “closed’ culture compared to Bombay when I moved to Pune in late ’60 s of the last century. I can tell many stories on this subject, but that is a subject for another blog.

About ten-twelve years back we wanted to move to an independent home, but from long term view, we decided to buy a townhouse in a new colony. It is a lovely colony. We lived in that colony till end 2013. Some family circumstances came up, we locked this home and moved to another locality, this time in an eleven-story condominium, it’s a rented home. The other day we went to visit the old house. Now both Jaya and I are nearing the age of 70. Hence there is a discussion going on regarding our stay in future. The old townhouse is an option, we have other properties too!

Yesterday, we took a call not to move there. The colony is modern with beautiful gardens for each home, with every 4th or 6th home having an extensive garden. The colony is maintained well, except for the gym amenities like swimming pool, children’s play areas, shared gardens, community hall et al. grace the society. Now you may ask me why we took a decision not to move back there.

Yesterday, while on the way out I saw that there was a group of people, men and women discussing heatedly on the beautiful well lighted tennis court. I was sure it must have been a general discussion about the celebrations for the festivals coming up shortly. I thought it was an excellent opportunity to meet some of them, so I got down from the car and entered the tennis court. Some of the ladies looked as if they had just finished a game of tennis but were not dressed up for it. They were red in the face. As I was nearing the group most common word that I heard was “Shit” shouted mainly by females. I am writing a sentence shouted, verbatim, during the discussion. “What the hell do you think of yourself”? and so on!

I was surprised. In my times, I was the Chairman of the society committee for five years. There were differences of opinion, there were heated arguments, but mature ways kept things civil. There was no shouting, there were no Shit words, and in general, people showed respect to each other. The birth of the first formal society committee happened at that time and systems were yet to be established. So there used to be some tricky issues which needed cooperation and maturity. There were awkward situations like the removal of one of the members from admin responsibilities. This person used to put Geneset diesel in his car. He used to skim money in connivance with the builder. There was no formal committee in those days. But the operative word was dignity.

dignity1

But the level to which the shouting and slanging match was heard yesterday indicated something had seriously gone wrong with the fabric of the society. I know all the involved parties personally. They do have strong views but have always been fun-loving and polite individuals. I don’t live there any more, since the last five years. In those five years, I had expected people to have become more mature and dignified! But where had the dignity gone?

I am not sure what had gone wrong yesterday. I am sure it must have been simmering for some time. I have seen glimpses of these behaviours on the WhatsApp group. But I was quite sure that when people meet face to face, the exchange of views is generally soft. WhatsApp group exchange involved writing. The way people express themselves in writing sometimes feels harsh because of the writing style. But when you are face to face, this exchange is a combination of spoken words, intonation, facial expressions and body language. Yesterday’s discussion showed the worst of all these traits in both men and women.

Let me tell you a little about the background of the people in the colony in general. Many of them are double income families, and most are having 15 to 20 years experience in their field, mostly in IT. The average new car these folks would now buy will be in the region of about a million rupees. Resold homes in the colony cost 15 million rupees.

The subject for discussion was, as my one minute stay allowed me to understand was the use of assets, in this case, the tennis court. As usual, my grey cells started whirring, and I was trying to know (I was going to use word understand, but I felt that I would never guess what was happening.) why it was happening?

  • Was it due to wealth?
  • Was it the senior positions they have achieved their respective jobs?
  • Was it due to a shortage of assets? There are 121 townhouses, and if we consider average one child per home, now there are 121 children of different ages. Some families would need a play area for kids, some would require a swimming pool and some would need a tennis court. The tennis court is the only large open area for parties, tennis, cricket, football and what have you. Even if only 30 children need to use the arena, it is going to be tricky. Then there are groups of young professionals around 25/26 years of age. These folks also need this area to play outdoors during weekends. On some Sundays, parents also play Cricket matches or Football matches. There is a significant shortfall of assets like open spaces.
  • In society, all are from the higher middle class with good income. Is it possible that some people can not handle the rapid increase in salary?

But does it mean that shouting match (or was it slanging match) is justified? During the evenings with a glass of Chivas Regal, we all curse the politicians for their crass behaviour. How would this shouting match (in front of kids) be explained? The so-called blamed person was very dignified, and his demeanour was very graceful against the rude behaviour of the ladies. I don’t know what happened later in the evening.

Where does one go from here? Can society tell the members not to behave obnoxiously? Does society have powers with them to handle personal behaviour? I don’t think so. Women’s rights organisations would have been shocked to see the response of the so-called highly educated and sophisticated ladies. Unfortunately, ladies have joined the bandwagon of rudeness in MeToo days!

I don’t want to move back to this high-end slum again!

16th August 1995 to 23rd September 2018!

In my blog last week, “So long farewell, we too say Goodbye!”, I had written about how I had bid goodbye to my “home”, without realizing it. Now I am thinking of the other side of the event. Obviously, I cannot ask my parents how they felt about my moving out, as they have passed long back. I never had the strength and maturity to ask them this question. Many times, it so happens that humans, in their zest to do well in life, go ahead; follow their projected trajectory. Go out for higher education, take up jobs and do well in their life. This is the evolution of human life and that is how it is expected to happen.

But in the background, a lot of things happen, which creates an atmosphere for the progress of people. In the background, in most cases, it is the parents who take efforts to help the children to achieve what they want, create the atmosphere to reach their goals, smoothly. In some cases, parents do a lot of sacrifices too! I am not talking about what the children should give back to their parents. My views are very clear on this, children don’t have to give anything back to the parents!  It is the parent’s responsibility to make their children strong to face the world!

But in my case, it never occurred to me, what my parents must have gone through when I left home. Did they feel the vacuum? What stress they must have felt? As I was the youngest of the siblings, when I left home, my parents were the only family that remained as a unit! When I left home I was immature and later on, I became too engrossed with my college. Immediately after college, I got married. Parents were never in my thoughts even though I loved them a lot, I cared for them in my own way.

I remember a couple of incidents from those times. I used to be in the engineering college at Pune and my parents lived in Bombay. I used to go to Bombay during the holidays. My mother would be waiting for me eagerly, keeping some lovely foodstuff ready for me. My father would go to the office and send his car back home for me to spin around! Petrol tank, of course, was always full! My father was a senior police officer and a very strict one. His demeanour was that of an efficient go-getter! Once during holidays, my mother was unwell and her health deteriorated quickly by midnight. My father woke me up, I had never ever seen him so worried! I told him not to worry and with the exuberance of the youth, I spoke to the hospital and drove my parents to the hospital. After about 12 hours, my mother’s health dramatically improved. I could see the palpable relief on my father’s face. Had I not been with them at that time, I am sure my father would have easily managed everything. But I also felt that my father was relieved because I was around. It was probably emotional support that they were looking for. I went back to Pune later, forgot everything and was back in my own world! How many such incidents may have happened during those times, in my absence, is the question that comes to mind?

16th August 1995 is the date on which our son went to the USA for his further education. I remember this date for obvious reasons but there was an incident that happened on our way to Bombay. As we were reaching Bombay, something hit our car below the engine area. The car engine started making a bit of noise so I had to stop the car. We found out that a big stone had hit bracket on which the engine is mounted. Such stones are left on the roads by truck drivers when they stop their vehicles on the road for some repairs. There was no expressway during those times. We somehow were able to reach a garage which was nearby. I called a cab and reached Bombay. We had kept enough margin to reach the airport on time. Next day the family went back to Pune. I got the car repaired and the day after I took the car back to Pune.

For the next few days or months, I am not really sure, we felt the emptiness but our daughter was with us. Three of us always missed him but then the reality struck that he will be away at least for a couple of years. Slowly, we continued with our life. Two years became five; he had come back to get married in between. Then five years became ten; he moved from the east coast to west coast and this year it is 23 years since he left “home”. Of course, now he has his home, he has his own family. In between, he kept on coming back and we also went to him as and when it was possible. But the visits, both to the US and India were as visitors. Luckily, Jaya and I were quite busy in that phase so was our daughter. In the initial phase, when the social media was evolving, we used to talk on phone depending on how busy all of us were. Cell phones were in the evolution phase so we had to rely more on the landline.

During these 23 years, there was only one major health issue in the year 2013. I needed to be treated for cancer. Our son could come for a couple of weeks. I could see the unease on his face when he went back. But I look at the whole thing from a different angle. Had he been staying in Bangalore or Delhi or Timbaktu, the situation would have been the same. Once children get busy in their career and their families, the natural progression is that they get busy in their own stuff. I had mentioned in one of the blogs about intersecting circles.

Circles

Circles1The images explain this concept clearly. In the first image, the Innermost circle is the core family circle which has parents and siblings. As each sibling forms own family, parents and other siblings are moved to the outer intersecting circle. That is how the world moves, that is the name of the game, that is nature!  The second image of intersecting circles shows the complexity that can form later in life, due to the formation of new families. As the generations change, you go into a circle on the periphery.

What is the significance of the date 23rd September 2018! Our grandson completed his 12th grade and joined a University for Computer Engineering course. He moved to the dormitory! What thoughts have been going on in my son and his wife’s mind? I do not know. I am sure the thoughts will be the same as what we had. This is one training that I do not think we gave to our son. But this is very essential like all other training. This aspect of life is never taught in any course, in any college. It is learnt in the life’s school!

But there is one more angle to this scenario that we see these days. I know of a family where the mother is 90 plus and has a very serious case of dementia. Hers is an extremely difficult case to manage, and she is being nursed at home with the help of supporting staff. Her eldest son and his wife look after her. Her other younger son lives in a different country. He is also retired but they come and support the mother for a couple of months. Is it incidental? Winter is very harsh in those months in that country. Who should share such responsibilities? This is a very tricky situation and handling it is not easy. We also hear some stories about children inviting parents to their homes only when they need babysitting or some such support.

Honestly, I really do not know what the correct approach is; but to me, each one is a different case. Most of the times we hear only one sided version. It is difficult to come to any conclusion. I have heard of a story about travel by my friend. I don’t know what adjective to give to this story. Whether it is funny or horror story or a practical thing to do. They have two children staying in the US. I found that they were traveling separately on different days. The reason was two children wanted the best “monitory deal” for ticket. Does it matter that they had to travel separately? Such problems maybe faced if the parents are financially not independent!

Before India’s independence in 1947, most people hardly left their area of birth for green pastures. But with progress all around things have changed a lot. There is good Hindi word called बिरादरी; people still marry in बिरादरी! But with progress they live all over the world. Material progress and progress in our thought process need to go hand in hand. Once that is achieved, it hardly matters. To me the circles below are the true representations of today’s times. Or is it the first first image? I am confused!

Circles3

What really is Romance?

This is the old nursery rhyme about the life of Solomon Grundy. It was taught to teach the children about days in the week. But to me, it is also philosophical about the life of humans. On Wednesday Solomon marries and dies on Saturday. The real romance in life is the story about the days from Wednesday to Saturday. Let me explain. The bliss, the glory, the charm of marriage, honeymoon and romance is generally discussed and described like  like you are watching a movie. Everything is slick and glorious, beautiful people and lovely couples, fantastic locations and oh, the bliss! But it is like only talking about Wednesday from Solomon Grundy’s life when he got married, he had Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in his life too. Real life is vastly different from the film version. It is not a bed of roses but it is a bed roses, after a storm, when the petals are withered and thorns are there, ready to pierce your delicate skin!

Come on, I am not cynical. But I am practical and pragmatic. The romance depicted in films is during courtship, marriage, honeymoon and initial phase of marriage. It is only about Wednesday! Arrive the children or thoughts about children, and things become different. At this stage, two distinct things happen. Either children arrive, or the couples are unsuccessful in conceiving; 10% of the couples remain childless, so some adopt and some don’t. Minuscule % decide not to have children as an option. This phase increases complexities of life, ten folds.

From this phase, romance does not go for a toss, but the definition of romance changes and keeps on evolving. The film variety of romance slowly goes for a toss. Career graph goes up, responsibilities go up, children are around, (or couples go into a vicious circle of conceiving) finances become tighter. Thanks to EMI’s. You have a beautiful home, expensive car; chances are that cash remaining, at the end of the month, is not much more than beginning of the career. You go to a mall on Sunday, your older child throws tantrums for some toy. You are trying to manage the child, and the younger one pukes on the mother’s new dress. You cut short your outing, it’s raining outside, somehow you manage to reach the car! Put on the music that the older child loves, not your favourite song, naturally! Younger one finally goes to sleep, while driving, you caress your spouse’s hand! That is the new definition of romance!

After a decade of marriage, if things go well, you don’t need any more proof about the wellness of the situation. What you have instead, is the most deeply romantic thing of all reassurance, that it’s okay to be a human being. Because until you feel absolutely sure that you won’t be abandoned by your partner, you may not be sure that your partner can tolerate you. The smells. The sounds. Continuous need to keep everything neat and proper at home, to keep your life on track! Till you start accepting that some things are going go out of control, you will feel unnerved by your own terrible mortal humanness. Well, we all go through situations that we may not like but become part of our life. But at the end of the day when the war zone has quietened down, you tell your spouse, “Hey how about some coffee with Geeta Dutt songs?” This is the newer romance, though you know what romance you had in mind has just evaporated for that night!

Wife returns back home looking tense. Their favourite doggy runs to her, she hugs the doggy, “Oh! You missed mamma, my love!” Picks him up. After a few minutes, she looks at the children and smiles.” How was your day kids? I am sure, everything was alright?” Children hug her, and she goes to the washroom. Children also missed their mamma! Drinks her glass of water then turns to the husband and without saying anything goes to their bedroom. Husband follows her, kisses her on the forehead and holds her hand. She just says, “I have such back pain, and that idiot boss is giving me a headache.” “I will make you some green tea, love.” Husband goes to the kitchen, smiling. Look at the sequence. All the love was given to the doggy who cannot say anything in return. Children could have thrown tantrums but didn’t, and had tough exams that day. Husband, of course, is at the bottom of the pecking order. He just had been ditched about his promotion at the office. He had the right to make the biggest noise. He had also missed the mamma! But he went into the kitchen to make tea! That my friends are romance!

When couples learn to cope with tough times, survive major crises, you are learning the art of living. As you grow older, you are together less often, and when you are, you have probably forgotten the “filmy” romance. Maybe you use this time to discuss and resolve other issues which have gone on a back burner. Through all these tough calls you learn to care for each other, support each other, help each other. That my friends is romance.

It is time to go to bed and like two old people you crawl into it. You tell each other about the weird things that your kids said that day and laugh and tell stupid jokes and giggle. Then maybe you feel like making out, but you don’t, or perhaps you feel like solving your crossword puzzle or read a couple of pages of a romantic novel. You say “Hey, your feet are cold why don’t you wear socks?” and “My back hurts,” that’s romantic.  You really hope this romance will last forever. You savour the repetitive, mundane rhythms of survival, and you want to keep surviving. You want to muddle through the messiness of life together as long as you possibly can. That is the peak point of your life. Savour it. That is the very definition of romance.

I am talking of latter stage romance. Someone is dying in the bed, and the spouse is sitting at the bedside, holding the dying person’s hand, and also handling all kinds mundane things that need to be done on a daily basis in our lives, for example, putting away trash and doing the laundry. Just because someone may die in the very near future, these things cannot stop. To me, that’s romance. Romance is surviving, romance is letting life go on in most onerous of the situations. Romance is cooking food in those circumstances and hoping to give the dying person the food loved by that person.

Caring for your partner, supporting each other in tough times, coming out of tough situations in life, knowing that many more such circumstances await in future and showing keenness to achieve normalcy, is romance. With such understanding, your romance will start on Wednesday and last till Sunday from the Solomon Grundy rhyme, the day he was buried!

Bonsai of Relationship ..

Bonsai

How is the relationship between humans formed? Does the relationship depend on values? There are legal relations which are by birth or by marriage. There are other relationships which happen. Closest relationship is between mother and child. Then come husband and wife and so on! I am not talking of relatives, but I am speaking of relations. One may be a close relative, but we may not have much association with that person. I am taking a look at the connection between two persons as friends, whether they are relatives or not, even if there is an age difference between them and maybe they are of different sex.

Years back we visited Canada. It was our first visit outside India and our knowledge about personal interactions was limited. We had gone on a holiday for a couple of days with our Canadian friend Ed and his wife, Dorothy! We were in the early thirties, and they were in fifties. On the way back to Ottawa, Ed asked me whether it was ok if he took a small detour. I said, “Ed, we have absolutely no issues.” Ed said, ” My mother lives in an old people’s home. I want to meet her for half an hour!” While we were reaching the old people’s home, Jaya and I were trying to judge if we should also offer to meet his mother! Our problem was solved by Dorothy when we reached the parking lot. Dorothy said, “Ed, you go and see your mother; we will sit in the car!” After, so many years of marriage, for Dorothy “It was Ed’s mother”! We were surprised that she did not feel like meeting the old lady! We were surprised by the relationship between the two ladies!

We have been lucky that most of our close relatives are more of friends than relatives. It is said that the father and son must become friends once their shoe size matches. A similar thing can happen with grandfathers, uncles and other similar relationships, but for this to happen, the onus is on the senior partner. The age difference can come in the way. Relationships are a thing that cannot be explained. They simply happen. Two people simply hit it off on day one. In Bollywood jargon, it is called chemistry between two people. Chemistry occurs. Sometimes two persons are poles opposite in their backgrounds, their thought process. Still, they can be close friends.

During my engineering college days Sharad, Nayan and I were room partners. The only common thing between us was our mother tongue. But even today after more than 50 years we are very close to each other. The main reason I feel is that there never were any expectations of each other. We were very much aware of milestones reached, progress made or difficulties faced. We shared everything, all the time. But discreetly, we had made efforts to nurture the relationship. In the case of Nayan, we were lucky that our relationship went even one step further. Nayan’s parents continued to live in India after Nayan moved to the US. After that, we suddenly realised that we had the third set of parents, Opa and Omi! We had such lovely times with them whenever we could meet. It naturally happened as Nayan moved abroad, and we could spend time with Opa and Omi! Now whenever Nayan and I respond, we share memories of Opa and Omi!

Deepti and Raju have become family for us. Again, as destiny would have it, Deepti joined my business at the tender age of 26, and we have been together through the thick and thin of my company for the last 25 years. When they became family, it is not very easy to say. There is an age difference between us, but it just happened. When Deepti’s mother became our Aai, we do not know. The funny part is Aai calls me, “Sir” and Jaya “Madam” but she is Aai for us.

I will share how these relations get matured and cultivated. A few years back, I was to go for my checkup with Dr Sant, for my sore throat. My granddaughter was one month old at that time. Priya had a high fever, and hence Jaya was managing Rhea. She called and told me the situation; I said her not to bother as I could quickly go alone. This conversation happened while I was in the office. Five minutes later, Deepti simply told me, ” Sir, don’t worry. I have called Raju. He will go with you to the doctor; you don’t go alone.” Again, the destiny was such that I was detected with cancer during that visit and Raju was there to support me. Raju had simply come out of whatever he was doing, going with me!

On the other side, I have a friend, who is a charming person, always smiling, always enthusiastic, always keen. But he tends to keep relationships on/off. In the initial phase, he lived outside Pune. He would pass through Pune very often but would communicate very rarely. Like all of us do, he also went through ups and downs in life. Some of these were very serious up and downs. But as expected he came out of these tough times, with flying colours and became a great professional. We were always on the periphery except when he needed close support. As friends, we kept on giving him support. But later we realised that we were his friends only when he needed help! To me, friends are there when needed, especially if you live in the same city. They are like shadows, and they take up what is required to be done. But alas, in this case, it is not to be so!

Another case is of a college mate, whom I met recently, after 45 years of gap. He was a pleasant person in college days, but soon after college, he moved to foreign shores. He used to come to Pune like all migratory birds always do, but he never met me during this period. He has an added qualification of “NRI” which he displays proudly.  Our friend needs small help these days as he has acquired some property in Pune. His experience with his “friends” was not good. I was a little upset when he informed me about his experience but in the same note his rant about change in Pune culture, change in friends not keen to support etc. made me think a little more. When I came to know the other side, it looks like our “NRI” friend has a different set of friends for fun and getting work done! It looks like our friend is riding a big white horse! With shining armour! So, his “friends’ simply ignored his requests. He forgot that any relationship needs nurturing. Nothing is constant in this world including relationships unless cultivated. Our NRI friend forgot that relationship is like a balloon; you need to pump the gas very slowly and check, pump and check. One must get the feeling of knowing when the balloon will burst.

Give and take in a relationship is not like an accounting ledger. You don’t need to create a credit entry, immediately after a debit entry is created. But at some stage ledger needs to be balanced. At the same time, you cannot merely create a significant debit entry too! Nurture, coax, help each other to become closer and closer. There is nothing in life like a lovely relationship.

I could go on and on! While writing this, I have become nostalgic, but friends don’t forget that the beauty of this world is enhanced by great relationships. But you need to nurture them, cultivate them like a Bonsai. The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower. We can compare the relationship with Bonsai.

Bonsai is a Japanese art form using a cultivation technique to produce small trees. Bonsai is not intended for the production of food or medicine. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. Similarly, the relationship between two individuals is cultivated for a pure relationship, friendship. There are no expectations. Create a Bonsai of friendship, between two individuals; these are grown with care in a container made up of love! Like Bonsai plants relationship can go on and on, living in their meandering path.

Bravado or Truth!

The other day my niece’s husband Dr. Makarand asked me a very pertinent question. He said, “Kaka when you were going through treatment for cancer, we all could see that you were very positive during and after the treatment. Can you share with me if this was Bravado or that is what you really felt?” It was a very valid question. In the face of tough situation as the cliché goes, “Tough get Going”! It is all fine to mention clichés, make a show of not being bothered or nor showing any concern. 

Makarand’s question got my thought process going and I went back four years, to 2013 Dec 1st, when my cancer was detected. This detection was done by Dr. Sant in his clinic and set the wheels rolling. Raju was with me; when we came out from the clinic Raju said, “You don’t worry, I will drive the car.” We had taken my car. I told him, “Oh, come on! What has diagnosis got to do with my driving the car? In fact, first let us eat something as I am hungry.” Our next step was the hospital where Atul was waiting for me to get the CAT scan done, to check the extent of spread. What were the thoughts in mind, besides deciding what to eat? Honestly, I did not feel worried, afraid or did not have a question in my mind “Why me?”. In the CAT it was found that there was no spread and the growth looked local. Was I relieved. I don’t remember having any specific feeling of relief.  

It was decided to perform the biopsy on 7th December. We took a family decision that managing newly born Kittu and my cancer treatment cannot be handled together, in our regular home. We had already hired one condo next to Priya’s. We took a decision to move stuff to the new condo. Next 4/5 days we were busy moving our stuff to this condo. That week was very busy, and I did not have time to think of anything other than shifting furniture. Did I have apprehensions about the result of the biopsy? Not really because Dr. Sant was very confident that growth was cancerous. I had totally believed in his judgment and did not get unduly worried when Lab confirmation was received on 10th Dec. 

Another ten days in deciding the logistics and getting the drug from Pharma Company. Jaya and I were busy setting up the new condo, plus my work continued. When I was told that the first immunotherapy was to be given in an ICU, I did feel apprehensive. What is the reason for ICU? What can happen? What can go wrong? Somehow, I had a feeling that cancer had luckily been detected at a very early phase then why this sudden change in threat level? I asked my Onco surgeon. He said, “Pramod, this is just a precaution we are taking. Once in a blue moon some patients have reaction against the drug hence this step.” I was relieved and was back to my normal mood.  

Ignorance reduces your anxiety levels. When the cancer was detected, I was told that there would be Radiation therapy along with Immunotherapy. My lack of knowledge prepared me for a couple of radiation sittings. When we had our discussion with Radiation Oncologist, the doctor told me that there will be 32 to 34 sittings. For a moment, I was stunned. But when the doctor explained, I understood the process. He said that 1 or 2 radiations are given in case of patients who have tough cancer and need palliative treatment. He also said that when chances of overcoming the cancer are good, number of sittings are more and depend on different factors. Knowledge acquired, I was back to normal way of thinking.  

Coming back to the question asked by Makarand. Was I truly not much concerned or was it my bravado? I can safely conclude that it was not my bravado. Why was I not worried? Why do people get worried? It is natural to get worried, anxious, it is ok to get terrified also. There are some situations in life which tend make even tough people panicky! In my case, I do not know why I was not worried. Maybe I have learnt to take things in stride. Maybe my mind is such that I move on. I am a normal human and I also get anxious, worried but somehow, I never remember being afraid of a situation. Maybe I have never faced a situation which can scare me,yet. Rather than being brave or tough, I feel that I am a normal person who is little luckier than others, who was never required to face a situation where I was almost required to give up. Another possible reason could be that I am pragmatic and accept situations which are not under my control.  

Am I the person to preach people how to handle the difficult situations? Definitely not! But I can share my experience with others. Did I pray to god? No, I believe in some high-level spirit which can be called God. But I am not into prayers, since childhood. I have always seen my father doing Namaskar to God but he was never into prayers and pooja! This was imbibed in me from childhood. Other than this, I always had great support from Jaya and my children, especially during my tough phase. Positivity of the whole family including my nephews and nieces went a long way I keeping me balanced.  

Makarand, yes, I was really not afraid, nor did any of us panic! It was not bravado but overall managing the whole situation as a project, keeping emotions in control, when it was necessitated. Thank you for asking me this question which made me introspect about the tough phase in our life, it was not only my life! I have not done something great that I can advise people but I have suggestions for all who get into any tough situation; it could be illness, it could be family issues, it could be money issues. Be in it together, face the situation upfront. Acceptance is the key to fighting back. Every fight is winnable to an extent. Leave rest to Him!  

Ignore body signals at your own peril!

Medical Illiteracy or Ignore body signals at your own peril! I was in two minds about the title for this blog. But the second option prevailed.

Not all of us are doctors by training and not all of us could have access to basic medical information, at least, during pre-internet days! It’s a highly specialized field. But in our day to day life health conditions keep on changing, as you grow older. Some changes can be discrete and some may be obvious. In our own and families interest, we should take care of having basic information and knowledge and decodify the signals our body sends.

Since this is a current ongoing medical event, I am not sharing the names, as I usually do! Yesterday, in my office I was talking to my colleague. Suddenly she said let me make an urgent call. She called and as the call progressed she sounded quite worried and anguished. After the call I asked her what happened? Her brother was not keeping well for ¾ days and she had called to find out how he was doing! She came to know all the details only after the call. He felt weak in the office; since he is diabetic and with BP issues, he asked his colleague to fetch a chocolate for him, to overcome low sugar issue, if any! He felt slightly better but decided to go home as he was uncomfortable. When he tried to use his scooter, he could not use his left hand properly; he felt very low strength in his left hand. Next day he saw a doctor who gave him some medicines and asked him to run tests. Sunday, he saw an eye specialist as he was feeling unease in the left eye!  The doctor indicated some distortion around the left eye. All signals were obvious but our friend probably lacked knowledge about the effects. I immediately coordinated an appointment with a neurologist. In next two hours he was hospitalized in a CCU. I shudder to think if my colleague had not made that call!

I will share many more such events but this particular event has made me very uneasy. It is just by chance, that I overheard a conversation and then got the wheels moving fast! There were specific indications, the person or his family did not understand the details of what was happening but can they also not understand that there was something going wrong with the body. How to inculcate this discipline in the whole family? These things are never taught in schools but these need to be picked up from someone or somewhere. A human being generally does not have detailed knowledge of most subjects other than his own subject. But health is one area which is common to all humans whether they are kings or paupers! I feel that this learning be made mandatory in school curriculum, so that people come to know basic symptoms regarding the emergency events, like heart attack, stroke and others.

In olden days there was the system of GP or general practitioners. GP’s were family friends, advisors, mentors for the whole family. I have known of GP’s who have treated four generations from families. For anything and everything related to health and not related to health too, the families would take advise of GP’s. So, they knew  most of the things about people in the family. If required, GP’s would ask the people to go to experts. In today’s times of no GP’s, I feel that a family should be going to a fixed physician and do things as per his/her advice and suggestions. Since our friend did not have “GP”, the doctors whom he saw, could not guide him properly.

It can be a good idea to guide people into basics of health management and emergency management. Basic training about patient resuscitation is one aspect but such emergencies don’t come so frequently. More than that, knowledge about basic symptoms is most essential. This will reduce time between symptoms and start of treatment. My friend Shashi has a history of stroke. A few months back when he had very high fever and felt faint, he immediately got himself checked from experts. This gave him peace of mind.

I will share one event with you to explain what I mean by lack of basic knowledge in other areas. A professor of arts with a doctorate, drove his car for two days. You will ask me what is so special about it? One of the tappets in the engine had broken and he drove the car with a lot of noise. To understand this, he did not need to know that tappet was broken but he only needed to understand that something was broken and was making loud noise. So, he should not drive the car! Period. But no! He drove on for two days accompanied by big noise! Is it so difficult to comprehend that there was something wrong with the car and not what is wrong with the car?

Two things generally happen. One is signals are simply not understood and sometimes signals are ignored. Our friend did not understand the gravity of the signals, the body was sending. However, I will tell you of someone, a few years elder than me. He apparently had good health, outwardly. He used to go to gym regularly. One day he went out, after  he came back he said that he was a bit tired and would rest for 15 min. 10 minutes later, he was dead due to cardiac arrest. He was diabetic but values were controlled. He was going to the gym regularly. Then why did this happen? When his papers were checked, the values were never good; he was informing his son, who lives abroad,  that everything was ok. He went to the gym every day; he always drove the 500 meters distance! Did minor exercise and chatted with friends, tea, have fried stuff and smoking followed. What he did was not accepting the true body condition, which further deteriorated with wrong food and smoking.

Let me assure you that our body and brain are very sharp in understanding the signals that are generated in our eco system. In young age we start knowing who our parents are, in adulthood we catch the right love signals. As we grow older, we know how to find better opportunities in jobs and in business. All this is done by capturing the signals, the indications that are emanating in our surroundings. But why can’t we catch our body signals which tell about our health? In life we master various things without formal training. Then why we cannot do it about our own health? Is it due to thought process that Cancer, Heart Attack, Strokes happen to someone else? Sudden deaths occur mostly in accidents, most other deaths  are because of ignoring the signal system created by HIM! So please keep track of these signals, it may be twitching of an eye, shaking of hand while holding a glass, heaviness in body especially on only one side, sudden sweating and so on. But at least “create” for yourself a GP system and take his/her advise as we grow 40 plus!

Cheers! Life is too beautiful to be wasted by ignoring signals from the world’s best design, “Our Body”!