Feeling lonely?

Am I feeling lonely? Am I feeling sad? Am I a person looking for sympathy? Am I full of negativity? These and many such questions have been coming to my mind since last evening. Another doubt that also came in my mind is, do I deserve this? Such thoughts came into my mind and then suddenly during the day, today,  I read a couple of beautiful stories. Today we went out to Nikhil and Priya’s friend’s home for breakfast; ended up into an excellent affair which turned the food event from breakfast to brunch to lunch. Jaya and I had met them only the second time.  

Love1

We could see optimism in these four young people added to it was the joy of Rhea, my granddaughter’s banter and frolics. Suddenly the Doubtful Thomas from my mind went for a toss, and original Pramod re-entered,  after the famous Canadian Siesta! What made this change? Why the initial trauma which is not the normal Pramod?  

On our WhatsApp group on the previous day, an event had taken place. Except for a very few friend’s, nobody knows the real story. An old batchmate, who lives in California had joined back after a couple of years of gap. Even at that time, he had left the group in a huff due to disagreement. He has been undergoing chemotherapy for some time, and currently, he has fifteen manageable days in any month and fifteen bad days after chemotherapy. I will not delve into details of what happened (the group is 70 years plus batchmates of COEP 71, the famous engineering college in Pune) because those are unimportant.  

It was the acts of people, sometimes actual act and sometimes knowingly remaining silent that caused the episode. I realised that it is the act of silence or behaving with less empathy and love must have caused pain to the friends themselves, other than the affected friendI am not even discussing the main actor in this event. Some were magnanimous and openly declared their remorse, whereas others did not. When we behave abnormally, I am sure our blood pressure goes up. Possibly our blood sugar levels also shoot up for a temporary period. The event that occurred was so immaterial that it is not even worth discussion.  

What brought me back to normality? There were a couple of stories I read which told me that everything is all right with this world — the first story I am sharing verbatim. 

Story 1 

The first time I met Mayor Pete, I was working in the ER, very shortly after finishing my residency and moving back to South Bend. I was caring for a little Somali boy who had nearly hanged himself. We had no Arabic translator immediately available that could help me talk with his mother, and we were working on getting one of the phone translation services when a young man in a suit showed up and just started translating. I assumed the hospital had found and sent down an official translator because translators at the hospital where I did my residency training always wore suits. The boy was gravely ill, and I did not bother to ask who the new translator was, but he spent about an hour with the mother and I, just helping me talk with her about his treatment and his prognosis. Then he followed her and her son up to the ICU when the boy was admitted. During the whole event, he never mentioned who he was or said anything to take the focus away from caring for this little boy and his family. 

About an hour later, he came down from the ICU and shook my hand before he left. I asked him how long he had been a translator with the hospital, and he very casually replied, “I don’t work for the hospital, I’m Mayor Pete.” He shook my hand and left without another word. He had come and done what he needed to do and was on his way, either home or back to work. 

I learned later that he had simply heard over the police scanner that we needed an Arabic translator at the hospital for this tragic situation and just wanted to help. In addition to studying at Harvard, being a Rhodes scholar, working as a McKenzie consultant, he spoke fluent Arabic and worked for Navy intelligence in the Middle East. He is a pretty amazing guy, has done incredible work here in South Bend, and will do great things for the country I hope.” 

Love2

Story 2 

I only read about this event so, I am describing it in my wordsA lady in her early seventies was detected with Alzheimer. There have been sad stories about people with Alzheimer. She was lucky to have husband, a very caring person. The disease was following the typical path. Once their young maid did a few dance steps when they were listening to an old song. The husband noticed his wife’s shining eyesHe saw this and signalled to the maid to continue with the steps. In those ten minutes, it appeared as if the wife went into a trance; she was in her own different world. The loving husband realised that the wife’s musical traits had woken up. He experimented with her favourite old Hindi songs, and it worked. They changed the home atmosphere and made everything musical. Their children lived in different cities and used to come whenever they could make it, to meet their mother. The progress of the disease had slowed down. Then they found accidentally that the lady liked to use crayons. A family with a young child had come to meet them. The lady enjoyed his crayons and did some painting. 

Along with old Hindi songs, crayons and drawing books, some colourful posters of butterflies, birds and trees were put everywhere. Alzheimer almost forgot the lady’s address. But life is never rosy. After a few good years, it’s speed increasedand the lady started going down again. But with the alert act by the husband who was also eighty plus, the family had good five years, in spite of Alzheimer. Was it only alertness? Or was it love? Was it empathy? He had his heart in the right place and wanted his wife to be a little more cheerful for as many years as possible. 

Do you show love and empathy only if the person is related to you? To me, friends are the second family to everybody. Age does not play any role. I can be friends with a six-month-old baby or six-year-old boy! I love to interact with 30-year-olds and fifty-year-old. My friends from school and college times are, of course, 70 plus. Those who are in reasonably good health feel as if they are fifty. But I find that most have their heart in the right place.  

When the world can be so lovely, who is bothered about the nitty-gritty of life? I may sound like a preacher, talking of love and empathy all the time; but that is what we should have in this world full of abundant heartless behaviour. With the heart in the right place, humans automatically are graceful and soft in the way, they react to any situation.  

Are there any online courses available that teach you how to behave with empathy and love? Are there any procedures available that bring your heart in the right place? Harsh behaviour and reactions are the cause of your bad experiences at your different stages of life. Simply remember that we are all born the same way, and we are also going to die the same way. We are on a voyage or a cruise, so why not make the best use of the same? Make it enjoyable instead of having self-inflicted wounds. Just take a look below the skin of any person, we are all the same!  

Read this when you have time! 

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/world-alzheimers-day 

Advertisements

996 or else!

9962

You must be wondering if I am going to start writing blogs in the digital language of 010101. Don’t worry; I am not doing it! But what is this 996? Chinese companies now expect their employees to work from 9 to 9, all six days of the week! For workaholics that sounds like great news. But 996 workaholics, by choice, are rare. People do work longer hours. But can that be the reason enough to work 996, all the time? I don’t think so. No sane person can follow that schedule. If you work 9 to 9, all six days of the week, where do have time for family life, time for personal chores? Time for enjoyment and time for quick picnics. Spending time with spouse and children on the seventh day is out of the question because it is likely, that one will sleep it out on the seventh day! Below is the status of 996 people on Sunday!

9965

How has this come up? Competition? Dictatorship? Fear of losing the job? Unrealistic goals? Or probably it is a combination of all the factors. Add to this, for international companies, with headquarters in America, and offices in Germany, Israel, India and China. Working with colleagues in different continents can play havoc on the lives of the people. In any organisation, the work is done by different teams in collaboration with each other. Hence there is a need for telephonic meetings regularly. But does it mean that 996 should be the norm? How longer hours will complete the complex jobs shown below, more efficiently?

9963

Jack Ma, the big boss of the Chinese company Alibaba, says, “The 996 schedule – which means working 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week – is “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have.” He further says that if you don’t work this way when you are young, when are you going to work hard? The question comes to mind what the definition of young is In a group of 100 people if 80 members are young and 20 are not so young, then can you have different timings for young and the not so young? He also feels that such a work regime has allowed Alibaba to become a giant on the world stage.

Why do we work? To win our bread and butter, to learn new things, to go ahead in our careers. How many of us are bothered about the last aspect? The main thing is to achieve, is to steadily get our bread and butter, to pay our bills on time. Educate the children and pass life peacefully. Not everybody is looking to become highly successful in life. Would such people be interested in 996? Would they be able to sustain 996?

I remember about a young engineering graduate who was in the US for his master’s degree, for a couple of years. He joined a company in Pune, where the atmosphere was not 996 but hectic. It was a group of smart engineers working to do some great technical work. Three months later, he went and met his boss and said, “I cannot work with such a smart group of people; probably this is not my taking.” Later he started playing bridge and made his career as a professional bridge player!

9964

Is 996 feasible in the long term? I don’t think so. There is murmur going on, “family or ICU?” The 996 types of lifestyles are bound to create issues — even our 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle is against the fundamental requirement of the human body. Before the industrial revolution, our lifestyle was based on nature. Sunrise and Sunset would decide the daily routine. 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle also involves travel, business dinners and late meetings. So even this lifestyle is hectic. What made Jack Ma think that 996 is sustainable in the long term, I would not know.

Following two paragraphs are taken from a webpage

https://hub.packtpub.com/developers-lives-matter-chinese-developers-protest-over-the-996-work-schedule-on-github/

Working long hours at a company, devoid of any work-life balance, is rife in China’s tech industry. Earlier this week on Tuesday, a Github user with the name “996icu” created a webpage that he shared on GitHub, to protest against the “996” work culture in Chinese tech companies.

The 99icu webpage mentions the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, according to which, an employer can ask its employees to work long hours due to needs of production or businesses. But, the work time to be prolonged should not exceed 36 hours a week. Also, as per the Labor Law, employees following the “996” work schedule should be paid 2.275 times of their base salary. However, this is not the case in reality, and Chinese employees following the 996 work rule rarely get paid that much.

These two paragraphs indicate what is happening at the ground level. Can the developers come together and fight the system? I doubt, and it may not be possible even in the US as well as in India. But probably breaking laws in China appears to be blatant. Companies are getting away without being prosecuted by the authorities. The latest information says that 996 will be replaced by 10107! Ten AM to 10 PM seven days a week.

I understand the aspect of profitability in business. But will 996 achieve those numbers? It is evident that people are continuing this out of fear, and also because of no immediate options available. Years back I had met one engineer from Wipro on a flight. He said that his job was quite laid back, but every day he felt like changing his job. After office, he took 2 to 3 ½ hours to reach home. In 996 and 10107 the commute time is not even considered. I read on the website that someone changed residence and moved into not a very decent home, to reduce commute time.

Many companies are not into 996 or 10107, yet. But the number of hours put in plus the commute time makes it terrible. If both husband and wife are working, then the practical solution will be to look for jobs in areas nearby and move residence near the workplace. I know of a couple whose total daily commute time is six hours daily, minimum. One of them has a health issue and is required to exercise daily. But this is not possible due to commute time.

The Chinese colloquial term for a developer is “码农. Its literal English translation is “code peasants” — not the most flattering or respectful way to call software engineers. I call them white-collar workers on the lines of blue-collar workers. Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra group, had tweeted, “I feel as if I am a businessman from Dinosaur times.” He made this comment after he read a statement by Uber CEO that Uber will never become profitable! I have a run very small business all these years; I am also surprised that Amazon has never made any profits, ever! I am told that these are 996 companies!

Mr Naraynamurthy of Infosys had sent an email to all Infosys employees to make sure that they leave office on time. But his instructions have never been followed in the spirit! I have discussed with people working in larger companies, especially the coders. All of them have said that they can concentrate on their job for not more two hours at a time. If 996 culture is followed how much will be the real productivity is anybody’s guess.

996? 10107? To me, none of these makes sense but what is the option? We had apartheid! We had slavery! The only difference is that compensations are high in the new bondage! Hopefully, there will be an organised movement against these systems, so let us wait and see, fingers crossed!

Hats Off!

I read an article about a song and dance program held in Cipla Center of Palliative Care, in Pune. The article was written by the lady who was the main performer. She knew that this centre gives palliative care for Cancer probably terminal patients. The program was for the entertainment of these patients. She was apprehensive as she had never done this before. She was wondering how these patients will accept her program. The program was to create the joyous atmosphere in these patient’s lives. She reached the venue and the hall started filling up with patients. Some walking in, carrying their own drips, some coming in the wheelchairs. Then a few beds were brought in. The lady was awed by what was happening and she did not know what to expect. Patients were brought in to the arena on gurneys and transferred to their beds!

The program started and the rhythm picked up! Some of the patients started blowing whistles, as is the tradition in Tamasha songs. People started clapping and shouting. The peak of the show was when one of the lady patients, lying on an inclined bed started moving to the rhythm. She was very ill. She was wearing a Saree. In her bed, she did some sensuous movements using Pallu of her Saree! What courage? What attitude?

Here was a lady, very sick. Maybe terminally sick and I am sure she knew it! But she was not only enjoying the moment but her attitude must have given encouragement to other patients. It is such people who make this world a great place to be in! These people are the beacons of society. The lady did what was unthinkable though at the back of her mind she must have known that these were her last months on the earth. How do such people have the courage to look death in the face? Yamraj must have thought after tracking her activity, why not keep this lady on this earth for a longer time and make earth a better place! I am writing this based on the article written by the performer. I do not know anything about the lady but I feel like getting up and to go and give the lady a hug! Hats Off Mam!

Hatsoff2

We have read about historical accounts where people have reacted bravely knowing that their action would result in an imminent death for them. The battle of Sinhagad fort during Shivaji’s time is the classic case. Tanaji and his cousin Suryaji attacked at night and climbed the treacherous fort using ropes. In the battle, Tanaji died and Suryaji took over. The soldiers panicked and started to run back towards the ropes. Tanaji’s uncle Shelar mama cut the ropes. Soldiers had no option but to come back and fight. Marathas won that battle. Shelar mama took the action of cutting the ropes thereby he took a grave risk where his own life was also in danger. He knew that they could lose and that he would surely get killed. But he was not afraid of this eventuality. He took this decision knowing the grave risk to him. Such people make the armies that win the battles. Picture of Sinhgad Fort below.

Sinhagad

There was the similar battle of Pavan Khind. Shivaji Maharaj was trapped on Panhala fort and decided to try and escape to Vishalgad. But his escape was found by the enemy quickly. They started hot pursuit to capture Shivaji. Baji Prabhu Deshpande suggested to Shivaji to move further and waited at Pavan Khind which was a narrow pass. He fought with a small army and fought the enemy till Shivaji reached Vishalgad. When Shivaji reached Vishalgad he ordered two gunshots to be fired as a signal of safe arrival, to Baji Prabhu. Baji Prabhu though was severely hurt fought valiantly till he heard the signal. His death was imminent but still, he volunteered to save Shivaji. Painting depicting Pavan Khind battle.

PawanKhind

Next is one example which gives me goose pimples, even thinking about it! This is about a friend of mine Prakash. He is a happy guy but I never knew that he was made of steel! Rather his mind was made of steel, his body was not! He has been trekking and used to travel all over India. After completing one of his treks, he was returning to Delhi to fly back to Pune. After the episode, he remembered that there was some scratch mark on his right hand which started the episode. He ignored it as he thought that it was a scratch due to something pointed from a bush.

As he reached near Delhi, he started feeling very uneasy. Within a matter of hours, he realized that skin on his right-hand was looking different. It looked very harsh and gangrenous. His hand looked shocking to the naked eye. He reached Delhi and went straight to the airport and wanted to travel back to Pune. Airline staff correctly refused to take him on the flight. He spoke with home and within a short period of time things got organized. He immediately rushed to a major hospital where some family friends also arrived. Luckily the correct treatment in ICU was started immediately. His family travelled immediately to Delhi but I am sure that nobody was prepared to the saga that was to unravel!

He was diagnosed with Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria)! One of the rarest things that can happen to humans. The death rate in such cases is as high as 30%. He was lucky to be in Delhi where excellent doctors and facilities were available. The link below gives details of this condition.

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2

During the treatment, most of the flesh from his right arm, about 3 to 4 inches from shoulder, had to be removed and bones were totally exposed. Doctors could arrest the progress of the attack. What happened was simply horrible. A normal person would have been extremely nervous, could have gone into depression. But not our Pakya. He and his family took it in a very positive way. Just guess how much time it took for the arm to get to almost normal? About 4 years maybe more! His arm was rebuilt stage by stage with plastic surgeries. I am sure you will agree with me that Pakya is made of steel! I will just share one detail which will show Prakash’s grit and determination. During the final rebuilding phase of his hand, his right hand was stitched, yes stitched to the stomach for a couple of weeks so that proper skin grafting could take place!

What makes such people so strong? We read a lot of war stories where kids in their early 20’s show valour that will make any society proud! What gives them the inner strength? Since Prakash is a friend from college days, I know him quite well. But I never thought that he would have such a steely determination. This strait is only in a very few people and I consider it is my luck and honour that Pakya is my friend! Hats Off Buddy!

Hatsoff1

 

Work, Life and Wife Balance!

Everything in life always has two sides, except when one is born and one dies. There are no two sides to these two events. I will not go into the changes that have taken place during the last couple of decades and it will suffice to say that the volume of these changes is equivalent to or more than what happened in the last century. This speed of change is going to go up and by 2050 it will be beyond our imagination. (Of course, I won’t be around then)

There is cascading information that floats around and is exchanged around the globe 24/7, 365. What this has done is that speed of doing work has simply skyrocketed. For workaholics (like alcoholics) its unlimited supply of their life’s elixir  24/7, 365. Whether it’s a boon or bane only time will tell. But I feel that time has come for workaholics to take a sabbatical, go to the Himalayas for trekking or why not, to go and stay in an Ashram. This person will ask what do I do there? The main thinking should be how deep  one should delve into workaholic stuff. Do a full reveiw of the life you are leading!

I have very recently written a blog with almost the same title but I have an additional word in today’s title. WIFE!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/06/12/work-life-balance/

Now you will ask me, “Pramod, stop writing a bit. You also go to the Himalayas. You don’t seem to have anything new to write”! You are justified in thinking this way till you read this blog, fully. I consider myself a storyteller rather than a blogger. After chatting with a young, dynamic, dashing workaholic friend, I felt that I need to write what I felt about our chat. I had just gone to him for a cup of coffee and had expected to be done and dusted in 15 minutes. One thing led to another and we ended up exchanging views on life for almost one and half hour.

This friend is an absolute go-getter, 8 am to 9 pm guy. Once in a while maybe he takes a holiday on Sundays! Over a cup of coffee, I was sharing with him my new semi-retired lifestyle. He is very senior in his organization. The organization has been going through a major upheaval, affecting most of the people. This has been going on for last six months. Naturally, I will not share the details. For our man, this is just a situation where he put his hand up and took over major responsibilities. Many of the responsibilities were from his area. So, what did he do? He said, “Pramod, during this period I was doing 5 X times the normal work under extremely stressful condition.” I said, “How is your health holding?” He is a reasonably fit person and also said that he has till some time back, never had any serious health event. Touch wood!

But he did have an event while he was travelling during this tough period. During this event, on the last day of his travel, he had to be monitored by a doctor, hour by hour. He was allowed to travel back home. He still had uneasiness and went to see his regular physician in a hospital, a few days later. His doctor was shocked on checking some values. My knowledge tells me that with these values any human being is theoretically dead. The doctor directly put him in ICU and made sure that his values came down to reasonable figures. He has started working again.

But one good thing is that he has started doing a few things in life with his family that he had never done for some time, he has seen a few Marathi movies recently. The question arose in my mind that passion has to be there in whatever you do. But one’s life has its own compartments. Work and Life balance are what we always discuss. But with our friend’s children being away for education, to me, Wife becomes an important aspect which should be considered. I read an article recently where the person had written that all the cousins in their family had been meeting only during marriages or when someone died. Should these be the only occasions when the cousins should meet? Do you really “meet” on such occasions? Death is a sad occasion anyway and during marriages, people make a very hectic entry and go away because everybody is too busy! Are we really so busy? Is it really worth it? What is life about? How about a cup of coffee with the wife at CCD or where ever? How about eating a Butta or two? How about a long drive once in while during the rainy season?

God is great and he gave a second opportunity to my friend. But we don’t know what is written in destiny. Should we test the destiny to the extreme, especially when you don’t know what is written in your destiny? Over a period, I have come to the conclusion that  a one-day-old child can survive in this world if his mother dies, the world will survive without your contribution. The organizations will survive without you; who knows it may thrive without you! Yes, your contribution matters, your passion drives your team to perform better. You are born to excel, you are born to perform. Your purpose on this “Terra Firma” is to contribute in a big, smart way, always! You won’t be able to sleep well if you don’t do this on a daily basis. This is understandable, you are simply made that way! But you are also trained to do the cost-benefit analysis! You have taken umpteen number of risks! But is the serious risk to your life worth it? You are very smart and you know that it is not!

So, my friend, bring your wife too into central focus now! For you, it is a matter of multi-tasking! You have been doing it anyway all through your career! But let me assure you switching from emotional to work multi-tasking is not so easy as it looks! It’s a tough call but I feel that it’s time you did it! For you and your family! They deserve it!

My two cents. A cup of coffee with you, anytime friend!

Voodoo Death!

Last week an event took place in Pune in a major hospital. A 25-year-old was being treated in the ICU. She was shifted from a small private hospital where she had undergone a surgery, and things started getting out of control! The doctor who did the surgery but realized the limitations of his own and the hospital. Unfortunately, things had veered so much out of control that the lady could not survive and died. This news item came in a leading newspaper and then it became viral. Initial information was, “So and so hospital tries to cure by performing rituals by a God man!” The lady had died of multiple organ failure!

There are many issues. First is that this ritual was performed in an ICU of the major hospital. Secondly the ritual was performed by a “God man” in the presence of the doctor who had treated the patient before shifting her to the big hospital. A video was allowed to be taken inside ICU where hospital nursing staff was partially seen in the video! Initial newspaper report gave importance to the name of the hospital and it appeared as if the large hospital allowed the ritual to be performed in ICU.

So many things have gone wrong in this event that it becomes difficult whom to blame. First and foremost is the ritual! How can a trained doctor allow this, that too in someone else’s hospital? He just took a decision to do it. Second is the psychology! Probably the patient’s health had reached the point of no return. So, the act was performed in desperation! Unfortunate part is that the patients 20-year-old brother was the only relative present and doctor apparently asked him if it was ok to perform the ritual. The immature person allowed this but he himself took the video of the event! How can you allow videography in a hospital room where the patient is on the death bed? The godman performed the ritual with impunity as if it is a daily event for him. It is desperation which leads to such rituals being performed as a last resort. It is a tricky thing to pass judgment on these things.

One event and see how many wrong things have been done! Is it the problem with our society? Is it in our DNA? When I point out something which is not good in our society, some of my friends get disturbed. But I feel that once in a while we should look into mirror and be reflective. The sequence starts with God man’s ritual. It is well proven that these rituals have no effect on events in our life. Still we keep on doing the same. It is illegal to perform such rituals but we don’t care.

Who should be going in an ICU? Why a patient is kept in ICU? Intensive Care Unit is an area in any hospital where critical patients are looked after. It is equipped to handle all type of emergencies that may crop up during the treatment. To me it is an area where “nobody” should be allowed to go in except may be a person who is doing the work of an attendant. But what happens in real life? We crowd the area, we go and meet the patient even though we may be carrying some infection like cough and cold. If an unexpected person goes to see a patient in ICU, excitement may get generated. In a patient who is critically ill, excitement is not good and it can affect the patient’s health. On top of this a video was taken inside ICU! Are you trying to capture last moments of a dying patient?

Allowing this event to happen was definitely hospitals failure. There are systems and processes about who is to be allowed inside ICU area? How could there be three outsiders in that room? Of course, part of the blame is with us too! We must meet the patient, irrespective of the health condition. We will do anything and everything to get the entry. What about the Doctor who was present? This doctor’s hospital had handled the main surgery, so he was very much aware of what had gone wrong! For what he did, does he not deserve disciplinary action from the authorities? Why his license should not be revoked? Will he go scot free and keep on doing what he has done?  Newspapers also have equal responsibility in this blunder. Their first reporting indicated as if the large hospital performed this ritual. It was someone else who came and managed to perform it without the knowledge of the authority. From next day reporting changed but it is a public relations nightmare created by press due to incorrect reporting! This is totally unacceptable.

When will our society come out of this backward-looking thought processes? People may justify and say that it was the last desperate attempt to bring the patient out of difficult health condition; for some it is like going to a psychiatrist! But to me, in all this affair the doctor is the main culprit, as far as I am concerned. I will tell you an event that happened in Mumbai.

In a government hospital in Mumbai, a lady was being advised by a doctor during her pregnancy. This doctor also had her own private hospital. She convinced the patient to have delivery in her private hospital. The lady died during the delivery, as complications came up and her hospital was not equipped to handle complications. The hospital was situated in a hilly terrain and approach roads were in poor condition. So, shifting the lady during complications was next to impossible. The family of the patient took the doctor to court. The doctor argued that the lady was a tricky patient; she weighed 120 kgs. So, chances of complications were very high; death of that lady was not surprising to the doctor. The judge asked the doctor one simple question. When you knew that the case was complicated, why did you ask the patient to come to your private hospital, which was not equipped to handle emergencies. Doctor had no answer. She was jailed!

Friends, let us not do things that are not correct. Let us not look at everything for personal benefit. Let us make a better society, come out of retrograde thought process. Let us keep the traditions but apply scientific thought when we follow them. Meeting sick person is ok but meeting very sick person who is in ICU is not Ok! Let all professionals take modern scientific view of the situations rather than looking through old thinking and continue with old unproven non-scientific ways. All these actions will make a better society. It’s not only about the death of the lady but Voodoo death of the whole system!

How much downtime is enough?

We all go through health issues during our journey of life and recovery depends on seriousness, duration of the issue, and many other factors, the downtime needed by humans to recoup is decided. Doctors of course advise about the same but such advice is given based on needs of the average population. In some cases, it may vary to extreme ends of pendulum swing. But the fact of life is that, we and our body need time to recuperate!

I remember a case of two ladies, who were required to go through Angiography, both were  from similar age group on either side of 50. This is a comparatively minor procedure and 2/3 days is said to be enough for individuals to come back to normal. But in this case, there was a vast difference in the time required to come out of the situation. One of the ladies, a professional, had a meeting outstation. On third day she traveled and attended the meeting. I am sure she must have borne the discomfort and a bit of pain too! But the other lady also a professional but with less hectic schedule took one month to come out of it! Why does this happen? Is it about pain barrier levels? Is it about general fear? In the first case, doctors had said that there is no problem to travel. I am sure the lady would not have traveled against doctor’s advice. Other lady was also advised that 3 to 4 days is more than enough but she did not feel comfortable going back to routine!

Over a period, our body develops its tone, but there is a limit how much we can flog the body, and its energy stores. In normal routine, the body probably functions at 65 to 70% of energy level. Our body has its storage system to store the balance energy available. We have certain situations in life where additional energy is drawn from this storage system. This happens in “abnormal” situations which are quite normal in our life. These can be work or family related stress situations, these can be physical situations where fight or flight decisions are required to be taken. There can be illnesses. These also sap our energy. During sports events we always try our best as everybody wants to win. This is achieved on adrenaline drive. Adrenaline drive is nothing but accessing the reserve energy! Various events or adrenaline drives sap our energy! Downtime needed is decided by how basic energy plus excess energy is used by our body.

Years back I was down with sciatica. It was quite painful initially. After ¾ weeks of treatment plus bedrest, I was permitted to move out of the home. I walked to a vegetable vendor with Jaya, he was about 50 meters from home. I was so sapped of my energy, I could not stand there even for five minutes. After that I called my doctor and he said, “Pramod, the rest helped you to come out of sciatica issue but since you could not perform normal body activity like walking, your muscle tone is totally gone. You will have to walk slowly and build it up step by step.” Which of course I did. This took me about ten days. Mind you I was in thirties in those days! Later on, about twenty years later, I had a minor surgery, I could climb staircases just after 3 to 4 days. This shows that surgery had not sapped my energy, as much as sciatica did!

But about five years back when I went through radiations for cancer treatment , things were quite different again. First one month of treatment was quite ok. But then from second month onwards, the body started having side effects, my throat started swelling due to radiations. I had to switch over from normal diet and had to be fed using Rice Tube. The side effects started different bodily reactions, by the time the treatment was over in about two months, I was totally zapped. But surprisingly even all through the treatment, I could concentrate and read, e mail, I could drive to go to hospital, most of the time. Once the treatment was over, I really felt low. Probably, I was holding my flag high on adrenaline! It took me almost three months to come back to normal!

So, every event which zaps our energy should be treated with due respect! First and foremost is of course the doctors advise. Based on the advice, we should slowly try and come back to normal. This process is not as straight forward as I write. Other factors like age also play an important role! Especially, the regime that we normally follow helps to recoup faster. If we keep on doing exercise suitable to us, regularly, recovery is bound to be faster!

What should all concerned do in case of such events? The person who had that event should follow whatever we have already discussed; but relatives and friends are also equally important in the recovery!  First and foremost, if the illness is serious, let the patient be! We have tendency to try and meet the patients, even in ICU’s. Please don’t do it. These days there is another issue. Many surgeries are done using probes! What this does is to get a false feeling that some minor procedure was done. This is because there are no outside cuts and stitches and bandages, post-surgery. But let us not forget that the “probing” surgeon does same work as before, on the organ, without visible damage! Basic surgery remains equally serious and tough. Due to use of probe, we do not visualize the seriousness. When a heart patient undergoes angiography and angioplasty, it is a very serious ailment that is treated by a simpler looking method; hence everybody including patient may feel that the event was not major, especially if this is done after an attack!

So, friends, face life as it comes, but do not forget seriousness of events. Give these events due respect. Start with yourself and help others understand it!  There is no shortcut to recovery! In life there no shortcut for anything! It has to be done the hard way! Stay well, and recover fast, sensibly.

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!