Monthly Archives: September 2008

Reading you

The headlines are in
your eyes,
I glance slowly
at your
subtitled lips.
Messages fringe
each curve.

Am I the first
to open your
to smell the

I linger over
lines, pause
at phrases
and wonder –
what if I
and turned
to the
last page?


Hospital duty

He has been here all the while I have. Over nightly vigils and corridor meals, our eyes have met. He is hovering around at the far end of the room, stopping nurses and asking them something, but no one seems to be answering him. He spots me and walks up hurriedly.
“My father has died. I am new here…I don’t know what to do…I don’t even have a sheet for the body.” He is young and uncomfortable asking for help. During the last week, I have watched him get pushed around and bullied by the doctors, nurses, cleaners, everyone because he doesn’t speak the language.
“The hearse driver has refused to drive the body back home because the Singur protesters have blocked the road. They are not letting even ambulances go through.” A moment later, he lets go. “How will it help the farmers if someone dies in an ambulance? What do they gain by stopping a hearse?” The tears come fast and furious.


Driver: “That route is longer by 30 kilometres. It will cost you one thousand five hundred rupees more.”
Him: “But…”
I: “Please, I will pay. Your mother will be waiting. Please, just go. You can repay me later.”
Friend: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? This is supposed to be free service, instead you are making money from it! Have you no compassion, this boy has just lost his father! Does he look like he can afford what you are demanding?”
Driver: “People die everyday. Driving on these roads is not easy. Take a taxi if you want. It will cost you more.”


He has lost most of his hair since I last saw him. He is wearing a white coat, is barefoot and seated in a stupor in the doctor’s bay of the ICU.
“Come, sit. You look just the same. You don’t have any white hair yet! How is your mother? Is Dr. Kumar in charge? Oh good, he is a good guy. The only one who doesn’t hit on the nurses. Haha.”
Sixteen people plugged into beeping machines lie around us, some resisting death, some resisting life. But he carries on in his normal, loud way.
“You got married didn’t you? No children yet? Haha, enjoying yourself, eh?
An old woman, shrunken by age and hardship shuffles up to the door. “Doctor….”
“What is it?”
“The scan results…”
“Oh yes.” He runs a casual eye over the sheet. “There has been a lot of bleeding. The healing will take a long time. Not much hope. We will keep her here for another week and see. Go, go now.”
He is in a hurry to get back to our conversation. Colour has drained from the woman’s face. Another week in the hospital? But she has sold all her jewels already. She stoops even more as she leaves the room.


“Didi, may I ask you something? Please will you speak to the doctor on my behalf?”
I am at least half a decade younger than him, but he calls me didi. It is an acknowledgement not of age, but another kind of hierarchy.
“You see, he doesn’t answer my questions…I am…I am illiterate, so he doesn’t tell me anything. If you ask him, he will answer you. You can ask him in English. Please.”


There is a community here. Bonded by similar anxieties, familiar burdens. We know each other now. He asks me about my mother, I ask him about his son. We share food, small complaints about the nurses. A deliberate air settles over those who have been around long. The new ones are fretful, hurried. We wait for them to slow down, and when they sit on these cold chairs, we offer water. Watch their bags, help with errands, tell them painkillers are cheaper in the pharmacy outside.

Who knows, we may feel sad to leave when the vigil finally ends.


One vadai, a forlorn
pile of aviyal. A little
rice. And a lick of

These remain on
your leaf. A petite
appetite. Easily

I sight the
silken payasam.

My heart hungers on.


I dye my dresses
in blood. Nothing else
will yield that peculiar
shade of brown.

Thoughtful as ever,
you present me purple
bruises. I wear them
daily, though they
don’t match at all.

But after a while
your gift fades
and now everything
How utterly boring.

I need a make over.

Pattam, prashasti, puraskaram

It is all a little embarrassing really. Not even four months into existence and we already have an award. From not one, but two sources. First from him who was poor but is now an Imam. And then from her of the twice-born blog. Exalted company indeed.

But we do wonder a little at the appropriateness of it all – the award says it is for blogs that are brilliant in both content and design. Judgment of the first category is left to discerning readers, but the second is hardly something we can take credit for – using as we do a predesigned template from WordPress. So we hereby give credit where due – will Sadish please stand up and take a bow? A big hand to him, ladies and gentlemen! Good, good. Thank you all. Please resume your seats.

Also, we are required to share the joy. This is the hard part. Most blogs we’d like to award have already got the prize. Moreover, we don’t read too many blogs, just a handful. So we are going to break the rules somewhat and award only three others.

1. Ammani of filthy, funny, flawed, gorgeous. Her Quick Tales are brillante without question.

2. Mercury who uses fuzzy logic to crack ’em jigsaws.

3. Aishwarya of Kaleidoglide, who has never heard of us, but whose badinage we enjoy thoroughly.

Here’s a quick copy-and-paste of the rules awardees must follow, else prepare to have their digits rot and fall off while they are asleep.

This award is for blogs whose content and design are brilliant as well as creative.
The purpose of the prize is to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.
1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it off, and link back who whoever awarded you.
2. Choose 7 other worthies.
3. Link to them in your post and inform them that they have won.
4. Buy Swaroop beer.

That’s all folks!

Your time starts now

Participation is
a lone wolf.

No prelims to
eliminate the unfit.
All you who are
born, qualify.

Winners do not get
gift hampers or
vouchers at bookstores.
Only Inner Peace.

The ‘connect’ queries
are particularly hard.
Some have not
been answered
since Time Immemorial.

Passing a question
is not an option.

His Infinite Grace
does not think much
of infinite bounce.

An unfair quizmaster
is He.

No full stops here

It is perhaps irrational, but my first emotion is anger. As if someone else is responsible and is walking around unpunished. Three days a month, every month, for ten years, I bit my tongue, contorted myself into all sorts of impossible positions, drowned myself in every form of kai vaidyam, kashayam and lehiyam, tried every kind of diet every passing aunty or atthai prescribed, and practised yoga in an attempt not to drug myself into comfort. But nothing worked. Not hot water bottles, not induced vomiting, not massages, professional or those administered by concerned and loving hands.

The extremity of pain meant coming home from school early nearly every month because the nurse there could not handle me. It meant hallucinating from the agony and passing out, more than a dozen times. It meant missing important functions and fun events at college, missing parties, and once, missing an important exam. It would be no exaggeration to say it changed my life.

Born with hugely misplaced pride, I made a point of not crying in public, even as a child, regardless of how badly I wanted to. But the pain shattered all that. I openly bawled in school and college, and once even at work, unable to control myself. Well-meaning but clueless teachers or colleagues had no idea whatsoever how to help.

So I gave up. Contraceptive pills, homeopathy, unani, siddha, reiki, pranic healing. I went on a desperate overdrive and tried them all. With great patience and adherence to instructions and schedules. Nothing changed. Marriage was supposed to fix it. Poor M will testify that it has done nothing of the kind. Initially, I was lucky not to have mood swings and other emotional trouble, but that modest consolation too dropped away a few years ago. Now I am inexplicably teary, short-tempered, insecure and irrational for the entire length of the period.

Finally, Brufen began appearing in the house in industrial quantities. The first thing that did was bring on severe acidity. Which was countered with industrial quantities of antacids. Last month, six years after the first painkiller, I discovered I have drug-induced ulcers.

And in these years the anger has grown. Speaking to a homeopath friend who says that in her many years of practise she has seen the number of women suffering each month rise, while the age at which the pain begins keeps going down, only fuels my frustration. Herself a sufferer, she began researching historical records, both from homeopaths and allopaths in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, not only to see what sorts of treatments have been administered, but to understand patterns.

She says the oldest records barely have a mention of women patients with dysmenorrhea. This can’t be because they were reluctant to report it – dry vaginas causing painful sex are reported, ruling out social taboos about seeking help for painful menstruation. But as the years pass, the numbers swell. She says the proportion of women suffering continue to rise even today. And she wonders if altered diets and the explosion of chemicals in the air, water and food are not responsible for this increase in some way.

She is angry too. That no attempts have been made to find lasting cures. That women are fobbed off with birth control pills that in the short term cause nausea and weight swings, and in the long term screw up natural hormone regulation and make them dependent on HRT and other expensive treatments. That the only other option are broad-spectrum painkillers well known to have all manner of side-effects like ulcers. Which is a double whammy – now you not have to deal with the pain of the period, but also the burning spasms from the ulcer. And these come unannounced, quite unlike the period.

I am lucky to work independently and not have an office or boss to report to. It means I can often afford the day, or two or even three off, until the pain subsides. But what of those who cannot? I know from cousins and friends that they drag themselves to work, quietly popping Meftals and Aleves to keep going. Ruining their health forever. Why is it that when half the world’s population experiences such severe discomfort month after month after month, there continues to be so little research on an effective solution? Why is it that no one cares how this affects productivity of one half of the workforce? Instead they choose to use it as an excuse to claim women are emotional and unhealthy and therefore unreliable candidates for more responsible positions!

Perhaps the anger I feel is not so irrational after all.