Category Archives: short story

A MODERN JUNGLE STORY

Disclaimer: The following is a true story, and any resemblance to any real person, place or event is purely coincidental.
If you are one of those dial-up losers, please go hunt a whale and come back while the page finishes loading. The exercise will hopefully be worthwhile. For fuller details, click on each picture. And bring your kids! Here goes…

Not so long ago, far away from Hopeful Capes,

and a few hundred miles away from the surreally beautiful, jacaranda-lined streets of the city named after Andries Pretorius,

an African sun was slowly setting in the breathtaking bleakness of a long-awaited spring in the jungle.

A black princess named Hopeful was heading in the direction of Wall Street for a long drink with her friends.

She strayed away from her more conservative friends while chatting up a flirting Prince Subprime, the latter clad in a dapper, striped suit. “Come on, in vest with me, heheh”, the suit smirked.

Suddenly, Princess Hopeful was attacked by a violent group of blood-thirsty animals. Prince Subprime ran away in fear. He had only heard of a bear run, but what was this?

In a few minutes, Princess Hopeful was dead meat.

The world watched by, ostrich-like.

“No one was willing to stick his neck out for the princess”, she cried.

No, not even the heavyweights.

The big cat was sated, having had the lion’s share of the killing,

but his cohorts were behaving like Lehmann executives. In no time, the vultures flew in to take stock, and then waited patiently for payday.

Watching all this, an obscure Indian celebrity turned away indifferently, eager for relief from the heat and dust of jungle politics.

He was tired of the constant sale sell-offs. Every dip is a buying opportunity, the stock market pundits used to say. He was tired of buying.

By next day, he heard someone say, “The bulls are finished”, and wondered what it meant.

Want more stories? There is a Buffett ready!

(Pictures: all mine, taken with a simple Sony Cybershot 7.2 MP camera)

THE NEW HYPOCRITICAL OATH FOR DOCTORS

A bald Professor of the Laconic Medical University came to address a group of young doctors from various public and private hospitals in India who were having a lunch after a medical meeting on stents for heart disease.
“Greetings, my fellow brethren!”
Various voices rose from the audience.
“Arrey, dude! Why are you talking funny like?”
“Who are you, Mister?”

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The bald man rose to his full height.
“I am Hip. Hip O’Crates.”
“Hip? What a cool name!”
“Where are you from, Hip?”

“I am from Kos-sipore.”
“So, tell us, Doc-Hip, what are you doing here?”

“Gentlemen, I am here for a new project funded by the Bill Gates Foundation. I am heading a project codifying a new list of commandments for doctors. In essence, it will redefine how physicians will behave in the next thousand years.”

Again, several voices rose in repsonse.
“I thought a Code was something that was made into a movie.”
“And I thought a Code is something that women say when they ask a question to a man.”
“What is this new code, Hip?”

“Okay, gentlemen, I will discuss this with you in details. Let me spell out the important portions.
The first line goes like this: I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygeia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath.

“Hey, Hip! What did you smoke?”
“Saala, piyelaa hai!”
“Nahin re, yeda hai!”
“I work in Apollo, too, and I think they suck!”
“Panacea Biotech is a good company. They sponsored the lunch at the last Association meet, you know?!”

Hip O’Crates waved his hands to placate the young crowd.
“Look, er, guys, let me cut this out. Too confusing. Next:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents..

Another loud buzz flowed out from the group.
“ Treat my boss like my Dad, are you kidding me? Some of my Professors barely used to be sober in the day!”
“Yeah, and one of mine got slapped in the ward when he tried to gainfully palpate the buttocks of an intern!”

Hip O’Crates shuddered, and continued.
“ … and to live my life in partnership with him.”
A wisecrack: “ Provided he has a very pretty daughter!”
Laughter.

“… and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine.”
“ Very funny, what money?”
“I lost whatever I earned in the bars, gambling tables, and stock market,
re!”
More laughter.

“… and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art – if they desire to learn it – without fee and covenant”
“ Teach your enemy what you know? Arrey, I will happily shave my head if my boss’ son became blind or lame! Bugger is undercutting my cases left and right, you know?!”

Hip was sweating now: “… to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.”
A senior surgeon remarked, “My driver has been assisting me for so long that he does all my simple cases. Very reliable! This way, I can take time off to play the stock market, you know? Who can afford to miss out on this bull market, yaar?”

“ I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment”
“ What’s a diet?”
“What does diet matter to the modern doc? Unless it means supplements. The ones for which the company-wallahs took us for that Alaska trip last year? You went, na?”
, a thin man with a goatee asked his neighbor.

A little dizzy, Hip intoned,“ I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”
“Not even to Prakash Karat or Mamata?”
“Or even to the makers of movies like Welcome and Om Shanti Om?”


“ Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy.”

“Hey, man, Why are you Wadeing into a controversy that will only bring you eternal sore Roe?”

Hip: “ In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.”
“Make that guard my wife and my tax consultant!”
The audience was thoroughly enjoying this now.

“ I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.”
“Do you wanna starve, Hip?”
“Yeah, do you know that unless you operate on all the stones that would pass off spontaneously in the piss, or are harmless and asymptomatic, you can’t ever hope to make a Europe trip with spouse? Be practical, man!”

“I will remain free of sexual relations with both female and male persons”.
“Only if you are a vet! Haraharhar!”

“What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.”
Now a few voices again expressed outrage at his proposals.
“Hip, but if you don’t, what will you chat about in the parties and conferences? People won’t refer you cases if you are so boring!”
“And if you don’t keep dropping the names of the VIP patients you have treated, whether in real life or in your dreams, people won’t get impressed. And, you know, boss, if you don’t impress people, no one gives a rat’s rectum to your ability. It’s all marketing and packaging, you know?”

Hip continued, voice choking,
“ If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.”

“What…?”
“Hey, Hip, just reverse that and we will be fine, okay?”

Hip quickly realised his policy needed to change. He said,
“In other words, gentlemen, let me rephrase this new code:
I swear by all my sponsors that I will be careful of my teachers’ kids, especially if they are competitive. And I will live with my teacher if his daughter is good at oral sex.
I will rely on expensive nutritional supplements for the healthy and the sick, and I will deal with abortions according to the local laws, practise for profit the holy art of sex determination and female feticide.
I will get a confidentiality waiver from all my patients, and exploit each case to the utmost in my material self interest. I will, where possible, avoid inflating my statistics to the media beyond reasonable proportions.
I can show the photographs of any of my patients, but I will not circulate the nude pictures of the film actresses who I photograph in the nude while they are under anesthesia.
I will not have sexual relations with the pets or domesticated animals of my patients. I will, however, use all protective measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies during such encounters that are never shown in Animal Planet.
I will not do anything unethical. The definition of ethics will be shortly drafted by an Ethics Panel consisting of Bill Clinton, Jagdish Tytler, Mayavati, George Fernandes, Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and Larry Craig.”

HASTY LA VISTA, BABY!

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This morning, he started his day as usual, at 7 AM. He recorded his alibi at the Hospital OR, Surgeon’s Lounge.

As the weather in Kolkata has just begun to be less of a fly-paradise, he opened the window to let in some fresh air. Actually, in the changing room, when the window is open, one can see a women’s hostel with windows that host sundry ardent Surgeon-fans. I hope they are not looking in today, he thought, remembering that he had forgotten to wear his undies in his rush to be punctual and superior, poking the window open to check that his immodesty was visually inviolate. He knew now how women feel when they are scanned by hard-up male Romeos.

Right index finger pressed firmly on a large window to open it. Crash! It was as though he had just taken a slug of the Magic Potion that the Romans of Asterixine lore always wanted from the Gauls. The pane fragmented, and his index finger acquired some glass splinters the way a single girl’s name caught rumor. What a start to a day!

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This early, there were no other surgeons. He decided to operate on himself. He poked around the tiny wound in the right index finger with a pair of forceps in his left hand, and found a long, thin, invisible shard of glass impaled horizontally under the skin. He nicked the skin a bit with a scalpel blade (no local anesthesia), and tried to get the splinter out, when suddenly he could feel it no more.
Gone, and great surgery done, dude! he congratulated himself. Through the day, your favorite surgeon braved agonising, lancinating pain that traveled from the right index finger to the sacral spine, skirting the root of the left testicle, and shot up at the speed of light to his left brain.

In spite of this, he battled on, glassy-eyed, and finished off his list.
End of the day, his finger is swollen up, just like an injured finger swells up at the end of the day.
And you know what?
He can feel that splinter again!
So, he needs to undergo surgery soonest, and undertake other surgeries as well.

He learnt the following lessons:

1. Morning flights for the next two weeks would not be delayed on account of fog.

2. The Vista from Windows is one big pane.
(Vista link: click recommended.)

3. There are some bad days when you can’t put a finger on what goes wrong.

IN BAD TEST, DON’T MIND!

Loud Disclaimers:
1. This post was not written by me.
2. It is entirely hypothetical. Therefore, it is likely to be truer than the real news you read in the papers.
3. The blog owner, unlike his moniker, is not really a doctor.
4. If he is, he is one mean son-of-a-bitch (a Rambodog), who will likely be condemned by the honorable medical profession for besmirching its fair name.

Read at your own risk.

So you are unwell, and your doctor has ordered some tests? No? Maybe you need to take an executive health checkup or a pre-employment checkup: a clearance that will take your career to the next level?

Whether or not you hate hospitals, doctors and needles (for few are able to hate the nurses), you are going to be subjected to some tests one of these days.

This post is not meant to be a detailed exposition on medical labs. I will merely reveal some of the lesser known aspects of tests.

* Comprehensive health checkup, something that has been popularised by many leading hospitals, is a big rip-off. Not only do the hospitals make money doing so, but the down side is that diseases are revealed, when they probably would not have needed treatment at that time, if ever. In other words, not all abnormalities need to be detected or treated.

Let me give you an example:

Ajanta was a 26 year-old executive who was asked to undergo a health checkup at one of these modern Indian hospitals. An x-ray of the chest revealed a spot like a coin in one of the lungs. The doctor asked her to go for more tests to diagnose it.

“Is this cancer?” she asked, trembling.

“I can’t say, but it could be in some cases”, replied her doctor.

A CT scan of the chest was done, and the lesion was biopsied with a needle. Unfortunately, the needle went into a blood vessel, as well as into some airsacs, and Ajanta started getting faint and breathless as the blood and air kept leaking into her chest cavity and compressing her lungs.

Rushed to the emergency room, a tube drain was placed surgically into her chest to evacuate the blood and air. As she recovered from this mishap, more bad news came in. The biopsy was inconclusive. Another one would have to be done.

Alarmed, Aparna Ajanta left town for the best center in the country. Another scan-guided needle biopsy was done. The biopsy was again inconclusive.

Now she was heading towards surgery to remove and biopsy the coin lesion. The job was done cleanly by an experienced thoracic surgeon, and Ajanta recovered. The biopsy result?
Hamartoma, it said.
“What’s that?” she asked. Her doc replied that it was really not much except some abnormal tissue that was not a cancer.

If she had not known of this, she would possibly not have ever needed surgery for it.

Aparna was a Victim Of Medical Imaging Technology. VOMIT, in short.

VOMIT syndrome is now a well known complication of fruitless testing that throw up diagnoses that would often have been better left alone and unknown. This is one major reason why ‘let me find out if everything is okay in my body. Doc, I want all the tests, including the scans” is NOT a great idea. Treatment of many conditions is undertaken only because tests (like the chest x-ray in Aparna’s case) are done without indication, and doctors feel obliged to treat the newly diagnosed ‘disease’. Indeed, why do the tests if we are not going to treat what is found?

Other aspects of medical testing include:

* Poor standardisation of labs results in wrong reports that are sometimes dangerous.

Most labs are run with poor equipment. The tests are often done by unqualified technicians, and the pathologist or biochemist comes in only to sign the report. These doctors are rarely paid well enough for them to give much time at a lab. They, therefore, rush out of the lab after signing reports. Another center, same story. End of the day, some money has been made, but a bunch of useless or misleading reports are sent out.

* Labs, usually the ones not doing particularly well, give a hefty cut to the referring doctor, usually a medical specialist (internist). Of course, any one, from a general physician to a neurosurgeon, may avail of these ‘interpretation charges’ (‘IP’ in marketing jargon). Unfortunately, they might refer the patient to the highest bidding lab rather than the best one. Many doctors have their own lab, which could be another glorious example of the above prototype.

* In many Indian cities, of which Mumbai is a particularly obnoxious example, labs cheat patients, as exemplified by the Cheaterjee Labs. Look at this:

The marketing exec of the Cheaterjee Labs is telling the GP:

“Sir, we will cater to all your patients, rich or poor.
Please follow our system for the best results:
If you don’t really need the test, write out the tests in blue ink; we will just type a report and not waste our resources doing the test. In this case, we will give you 50% of the costs.
If you need us to give you a favorable report (for example, a higher blood sugar report, or a positive test for syphilis), please write in red ink. We will give you 40% of the costs of the tests.
If, however, you actually need us to give you accurate results, write in black. Your IP charges will be 30%.
Sir, here is a compliment from Mr. Cheaterjee, our Director. Please accept this set of three pens!”

Our GP is one smart cookie. He mainly treats the migrant laborers of Kurla, a Mumbai suburb. The Biharis and Bangladeshis are his patients. Illiterate, these poor, unsuspecting idiots think there is only one answer to their ailments: injections and glucose infusions.
For any problem, the GP admits them in his local hole-in-the-wall nursing home, and gives them the expected ‘treatment’. If the ‘customer’ is possessed of a little more cash, then tests are done. Now, the three-ink plan comes in handy. If the doc wants to squeeze some dough out of the patient, he can get a positive report for, say, syphilis, and then keep giving regular injections of penicillin, making a buck every week. A few such patients, and he has his sight on his next mutual funds investment.

* Most Government labs are horribly run. Exceptions are some of the good teaching hospitals in major cities.

* Most of the top private hospitals have decent facilities, but reports may vary. In case of cancers, it is the skill of the pathologist that makes the difference between right and a grievous wrong.

* Almost all healthy young patients below 40 years who need a routine surgery need NO pre-operative tests (useless, expensive, and wasteful). This international recommendation is zealously ignored by 99% of doctors.

There, I said it. Will I be a leper in the community of doctors now? Oh, I forgot, I am only a virtual one!

TAKING STOCK OF RETIRED LIFE

This is about two old men.

Apu had once been a Government employee. For as long as his failing memory could recall. He had never known of any private company, and of its demands on time, commitment, and excellence. Never had he attended such a company’s AGM in a five star hotel. Nor had he ever attended its Board of Directors’ meeting, with its elaborate dinners at ‘off-site’ venues, androgenic entertainment and cognac that we have all heard of, but rarely experienced.

Apu had gradually climbed the seniority ladder and retired five years back as a Bank Manager of the Bank of India. After retirement, he was not doing anything in particular, except that he had got into an accident that broke his hips. Two operations and three years later, he set out for a new life with new hip joints.

These days, we heard, we can find Apu between 10am and 3.30 pm in a small room in an old building near his Kasba flat, sitting in front of a computer terminal. Apu never learned how to use a computer till late in life. He was never comfortable with it. His junior staff used to do his computer work, and he was happy to escape the new complications of office.

Apu is found sitting, as we were promised, in front of a computer terminal. He has with him a laundry list. Just like he takes along a list of vegetables and stationary to buy every other morning. This list, we peep shamelessly, reads as follows:

Suzlon 20
RCap 10
LT 10
MLL 100

and so forth.

Puzzled at the code, we wonder if he is seriously sick with some psychiatric disease for which he has been prescribed these weed-killing poisons.

He greets us, “Hello, Doctor shaheb! Kaemon aachhen?

Keen to impress his daughter, who has just popped in to give him his forgotten glasses, we say, “Sababa”.

Now, we do have some Israeli friends, from whom we have extracted, over the last few years, one solitary word in Hebrew. Sababa. It could mean anything. Generally, it means ‘cool’.

Unimpressed daughter raises left eyebrow, rolls eyes by ten degrees towards the thinning Arctic icecaps, and exits. Without any audible sniff or aside. We can clearly see she is not the sophisticated urban, smart young woman we are so fond of acquainting ourselves with. We, too, are clearly unimpressed, though there was scope for imagining a certain potential. We realise that we, too, can make the occasional mistake. Clearly an overestimation, like a certain Chief Minister of West Bengal.

Coming back to reality, Apu smiles genially at the ‘sababa’ and nods in understanding (nothing).

“Er, Apu-da, what is this list you are carrying? Are you sick or something?”

No answer. Greetings and bhadrata over, Apu is devouring the computer screen with his bare eyes.

He has not come to this tiny hole in the wall to learn computing. Because the board above the entrance says ‘Maalamaal Shares and Securities Ltd.’

The screen, we learn, is filled with the names of companies with eyepoppifying numbers of buyers and sellers.

MLL, then, is Mercator Lines Limited, a shipping company whose price in India’s share market recently rose from Rs. 80 to Rs.180 a pop. He had a hundred. Old man Apu says, “Chhede dao (sell)”

Rapidly flashing his fingers over an aged keyboard, a young man, with a cell phone on one ear, and a land phone on the other, somehow, miraculously hears Apu’s call. He keys in a ‘sell’ order. Apu has just made a profit of 10,000 rupees (around $250). He next turns his eyes over to Reliance Capital, or RCap. There was more shopping for Apu to do till 3.30 pm today, the time the share market closes.

The daughter slips in behind him and notes down the profit in a diary, her eyes reflecting dreams of wearing tastelessly elaborate gold jewelry on her wedding day.

In the meanwhile, far away from Kolkata, in a dusty coal-belt town called Ranigunge, another old man, eighty years old, called Glaxo Benu, is sipping a cup of tea. His shrivelled legs are being oiled by a maid. Benu was a clerk with Glaxo while it was still called Glaxo, and now lives with that name stuck to him for the rest of his life.

Two years back, this was Benu’s story:

Glaxo Benu was sitting on the footpath, enjoying some sun, when his grand daughter and her boyfriend came by.

“What, dadu, how are you today?”

“How do you expect an old man like me to be? I have only a few of my days left!”

“Dadu, have you heard from Ma? We are getting married next year!”

“What? That is great news! Well, khoka, what do you do for a living?”

“Dadu, I work with some shares and stuff, you know…”

“Shares? What do you do with them?”

“Do you know what shares are?”

“Shares? Long back, I had bought some. Why I bothered, God knows! Wasted my money…”

Curious, Golu, the boy, asked him, “What shares did you buy?”

“Oh, some company called Unitech or something. I spent one thousand rupees, can you imagine it? One thousand rupees on a hundred shares of this stupid company. Ten rupees for one! I am sure the rogues ran off with all the money from gullible bokas (fools) like me!”

A proverbial chill ran up Golu’s spine.

“You mean you still own those shares?”

“Yeah, I have the papers in my old trunk in the attic. Why, why do you ask?”

“Dadu”, Golu said in a low voice, “Do you know what the price of Unitech is?”

“You mean the company still exists?”

“It is worth 14,500 rupees!”

“Really, you don’t say? I spent a thousand rupees twenty years back, and you mean I will get fourteen thousand odd today? Okay, not bad. Can I sell this?”

“Dadu, NO! EACH share is worth that! You have shares worth fourteen lakhs of rupees!”

In little time, Glaxo Benu’s two sons took over from Golu. There was a huge row over the ownership of the stock, as the younger son was looking after Glaxo Benu for the last five years, while the older one had been looking after him the years previous to that. Fight over the ownership of Benu and his shares continued.

If the foreign reader does not get it, it is based on the modern Indian tradition that grandfathers’ problems are always donated, while their assets are always coveted.

The money came in, all of it, as promised. But the family of Benu was splintered, unable to handle the pressures of the sudden affluence that threatened to come into their lives. The bounty was split over several times, and went to grand daughters and their husbands, and their children. The brothers were left with a couple of lakhs each, but were no longer on speaking terms.

Glaxo Benu was very happy, and basking in the attention. He could not understand why everyone was asking him detailed questions about his old days and the contents of his old trunk.

If further papers are discovered, we will share the information with you, you poor, helpless fools!

Editor’s Participatory Note:

The use of the term ‘We‘ when referring to the first person singular is to be singularly condemned. Only the following are allowed to use the term ‘We’ when referring to themselves:
1. The Pope, as he speaks for himself, the entire Christian community, and sundry pedophilic priests.
2. The Queen, as she speaks for herself, her subjects and her dogs.
3. Men with tapeworms in their intestines. Roundworms and threadworms may also be considered as similar qualification. People who are generally greeted with the epithet ‘worm’ or ‘politician’ may also use ‘We’.

A SPASM OF TRUTH

POOJA

“I am married. I have a wonderful man as a husband. And two little beauties as kids. I am a wife and a mother”. For the uncountable-th time, Pooja spoke silently to her self. Not to herself, but to her self. A self she had not allowed to prevail over her values.
Pooja was what a college brat would have called a ‘one-piece’. As Indian a product as a reincarnating hero in a Hindi flick. She was unclear about God, but a value-driven middle class Indian woman. For her, loyalty, honesty, duty, responsibility and happiness were all one. There were no conflicts in her values. She was very clear about that. In her life, she was doing everything her conservative parents would have expected her to, and she was proud she was living up to their expectations.
A few years back, Pooja’s life had suddenly undergone a change. She had left her old, small town of Cuttack and moved on to the capital city of the Indian money and movie market, Mumbai. Here she had got married to Raja, a man who made wildlife documentaries for a living.
Busy with her working life (Pooja was a busy research fellow at a ‘me-too’ generic drug production lab) and with her unforgiving domestic pulls, she did not have time for frivolity, except when she was with her children.
She had many men looking her over every morning at work and in places she was seen, like the schools, the local restaurants and the markets. Men were taken by her incomplete beauty, and could not but keep staring at her honeyed eyes, trying to read some hope in them. Her body and her face had a common appeal, an unfailingly provoking femininity. However, she never encouraged a soul. Fidelity always figured high in her list of values.
One Tuesday, her boss called her over to his room. She would have to meet a Mr. Jay over lunch. Bummer, she thought. Jay was a representative of a US company intending to market the drug which Pooja was working on. “Just see that he has a clear idea of what we are looking to do in the coming year, so that they don’t have false expectations from us”, her boss, Dr. Krishnan, said.

MEETING JAY

Lunch was to be at the Hyatt, a hotel that had universal appeal for its hospitality and class.

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Pooja went over to the restaurant called M, expecting Mr. Jay to be a young, dashing American executive with ‘brand’ screaming from every accessory. She was shown to a lonely table where she found a middle aged man examining a glass of water. Jayendra Ramaswamy was Jay to most of his American colleagues, and indifferent to it. In fact, Jay seemed to be indifferent to most things on earth. People who knew him called him an impractical dreamer, one who would never give an immediate and practical solution to a burning problem. Instead, they would say, he would rubbish the whole concept or premise that had led to the problem being discussed and offer utopian solutions that would never be possible. However, he was a hard man to argue with across the table, and had remained steady at his job as Head, International Marketing.

“Hi, I am Pooja”.

“Hmmn. Jay. Hi.”

“I hope you didn’t have to wait too long?”

“Well, actually I did, but now I think it was worth it.”

Pooja could not respond. She was transfixed with the look on Jay’s eyes. Sharp, penetrating to the entrails, and, in one word, sexy. The man himself was not impressive to look at, with a wide stubble of recently shaved hair on his head, and rimless glasses on a largish, broad nose. But the moment he started talking, he created an image of a man who was too big for the present, a concept rather than a being. His words were crisp and witty, and there was an unplanned insolence about him that captivated Pooja. She realised quickly that she was trespassing her own set limits when she noticed herself leaning towards the table, getting enticed in the joyous network of Jay’s words.

Jay was smiling and saying, “All these truths are derivative truths, like the fact that this Fried Chicken carries 800 calories as the sum of its constituents, is covered up with egg batter, and will cause intense thirst an hour after this is eaten. However, the basic truth is that if this did not have the egg or the 800 calories in it, it would not be fit to be called a Fried Chicken. So, we might then ask, ‘what gave thirst: the chicken or the egg?’ “

THE THRILL OF TOGETHERNESS

As surreal as the lunch was, it opened up a new dimension to Pooja’s life. She swam willingly in the currents of her conscious attraction for Jay, and would spend hours each day talking to him, or texting him.
It was one of those ‘Art of Living’ type lectures that opened her eyes. It is all ‘Maya’, she heard the guru say: “Grasp the conscious, and shut the door of the imagination. Thereby you shut the door of temptation, and look through the window of duty, of love, of selflessness into the material world.”

Pooja tried, but failed to resist the charm of Jay’s utopia, his careless egoism, his nonchalant attitude towards how the world saw him. It seemed that he was clear and right about most things (though he was never righteous in his attitude), and did not give a damn to anyone who thought otherwise.

Over a period of time, it became clear that she loved him, and he seemed to know it, but he did not seem to want to capitalise on that.
“How could you not love me?”, his smile seemed to say. He did reciprocate at times, like when he held her hand while laughing at his own joke, or dropping his left hand briefly on her thigh while driving with his right.

THE PREDICTABLE TURMOIL

At home, Pooja found it difficult to reciprocate to her husband when he loved her, though she played her part without trying to excuse herself. The more she thought about it, the more impractical her situation seemed to get. She felt physical pain thinking of her love and the reality of her marriage with someone else. “No, this has to stop”, she told herself.

She consciously stopped calling him. He did not ask why. He did not violate the space she had created between herself and Jay. He seemed to have accepted her sudden turning back.
Pooja, since that day, gave every waking moment to her work and to her children, subduing that part of her that seemed to want nothing more than a few moments of laughter, a few minutes of that magic that encapsulated what she felt with Jay. Strong-willed that she was, she managed to crush her love, and focus on her family values.
Till tonight.

TONIGHT

She was alone at home, when Jay appeared at her door.
She remembered nothing else, except that it seemed that they closed all physical space between them in just a heartbeat.

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Jay said nothing. Neither did she. They simply kept the embrace on till they fell on the bed. She had never experienced such intensity in sexual intercourse. It was so much more than a physical orgasm. It was like a spiritual experience, a bhakti for her man, a love that washed out her long held values.
As she lay, clad in a thick layer of sweat, her pulse throbbing wildly, she had a flash of light, a realisation of her self, a nirvana. She was a fool not to have realised the value of her love, she thought.

“ I have wanted you since the time I saw you first. I can’t live my life without you. Don’t leave me, jaan”, she whispered out aloud.

“Uh, what, honey? I’ll never leave you!”, said Raja, her sated husband. Drained out at the unexpected pre-dawn sex , he lay over her, pleased to have made her happy, finally.

DADI IS SMILING AND I AM AWAKE

It is two hours past midnight, and you might wonder why I am not asleep like decent people with two brains and one kidney would be expected to. Did I get that right? Whatever.
Well, it’s a longish kind of story, intricate in its human situations. It needed a Tolstoy or somebody comparable to do justice to it, but please make do with me, okay? I will use my special editing and writing skull skill and make it just bearable.

    THE BACKGROUND

Day before yesterday, I operated on an eighty year-old lady, Dadi, at a posh hospital (called Hippocratic Medical Center) in the grand old city called Unknown. The operation went smoothly, and I, the surgeon, modestly boasted to the two daughters of the lady that it couldn’t have been better done. Period. I am not known for beating about the bush with words. As the girls keep saying, “Give it to me straight and hard, baby!”

Yesterday, the old bird was smiling in delight. She apparently did not expect to survive my surgery. Not one to misunderstand such low expectations as a poor reflection on my reputation, I gave her a dazzling smile, and said she could go home the next morning. Which was today.

    TODAY

This morning, I started off early as usual, for I had a long operating list of seventeen cases, but at another hospital. Happily doing the chop-chop job that characterises the peculiar perversity of being a surgeon, I got a call around noon. It was the old lady’s son-in-law.

“Doc, she is feeling a lot of acid and is puking a fair bit.”
“Hmmn, that is not supposed to happen. Do one thing. Keep her in the Hospital for the day, for I don’t want you to take her home and then have problems. Later in the day, I will come in and look her up. In the meanwhile, let me send another physician to check her up”, I said.
“Okay, doctor.”

I tried calling the internist physician who had been treating the patient as part of my team. He was stuck in an angioplasty, and had loads of work. He couldn’t visit the patient right away, but promised to visit her later in the day.

    SHILA

Shila, the nurse looking after the patient, was a struggling young nurse. With an alcoholic gambler of a husband, she had to earn the bread for her little daughter, and save for her schooling as well. She had got this job of private nurse (where she gets paid for her hours of serving the patient in hospital) with great difficulty. For the few hours since morning that she had been with Dadi, she got paid for a full day. Now she was looking forward to another ‘case’ that would double her day’s income.

Shila did not have much trouble in reassuring the patient and her daughters to take the patient home. She said, “Everything will be alright. I have spoken to your doctor. I have given the anti-emetic as he has advised”.
She called me up and said, “Sir, the patient is feeling much better now. I have given her an injection for vomiting. Her discharge papers are all complete, and if you want to keep her today, she will have to be re-admitted, with extra costs. The relatives don’t want this. So shall I discharge her?”

I was operating while I got this call. I said “If this is what they want, then it is okay.”
Shila got paid twice today.

Back in the hotel (for the family was from another city), the patient continued to get sick, vomiting repeatedly. The family called me, and I assured them I would send my assistant at the earliest. However, with so many cases, he, too, would be able to come in only by late afternoon.

    IN DADI’S HOMETOWN

Around this time at noon, Dadi’s eldest son was shot dead. Dadi’s son was a rich businessman with no vices and an obsession to expand his business. In his hometown, he was the target of extortionists and kidnappers. Recently, Maoist guerillas had warned him to pay them three crores of rupees (around $800,000) or he would be killed. He had refused, and jacked up his security. Today, in spite of that, he was shot at from a hand shake’s distance and dropped, all life spurting out from his chest.

    THE FAMILY OF DADI

Dadi’s family of her daughters, sons and sons-in-law, needless to say, was shell-shocked. Not only was their beloved mother sick, but their own brother and family head had just died a brutal and unexpected death. Very few people live expecting death, very few. Immortality is an invisible stain inherent in human actions and thoughts.

The family privately held a conference, and decided not to inflict the sick old woman with the shock of her son’s death. They decided to leave one daughter-in-law with Dadi, and all of them left for their hometown.

    RE-ADMITTING DADI

My assistant, Parthiv, went to see her, and called me, giving me the picture of the patient. I ordered him to readmit the patient to Hippocratic Medical Center (HMC). Time: 7.00 pm.

I left my office, finishing off some consultations, and headed towards the hospital. Both Dadi and I reached around 7.30 pm. One immediate problem. The family had left for home in disarray. They had forgotten to keep any money for Dadi’s further treatment. The 40-ish daughter-in-law looked to be a housewife protected by her family from the vicissitudes of city life. I took the responsibility of the admission. My patient, after all.

    THE INVESTIGATIONS

I needed a set of x-rays, a few blood tests, and most importantly, a CT scan of the patient’s belly to find out what her problem was.

At HMC, the day technicians in charge of the blood and x-ray departments took off by 7 pm. The night duty staff came in only at 9 pm. This two hour gap could not be avoided at HMC because the trade union of the employees was very strong, and had strongly refused to extend their duty hours.

Therefore, I had to wait for two hours for the investigations to begin. I had already started an IV, put in the tubes and catheters that you don’t normally see in the hospital scenes in movies.
Work temporarily over and all alone, I wandered off into the narrow streets of Unknown city. I stopped at a corner tea shop, and had hot spiced tea served in an earthen mug (bhaanr). To keep busy, I bought and lit a smoke. I don’t generally smoke, but now seemed to be a good time. After an uneventful hour of this, I returned and waited for the tests to start.

After another hour or so, the CT scan was going to start now. A full two hours later, the cause has been found. Dadi has a temporary malfunction of her intestines. A couple or more days of treatment would likely see her through.

    ME

What struck me today was that I behaved the way I used to as a young resident doctor: taking risks for a patient, pushing the patient’s trolley, drinking tea and smoking (both without count), proffering a bowl to the retching patient, holding her shoulders and back to help her sit up, regularly asking how she was feeling and reassuring her that everything would be alright. She smiled sleepily at me, contented and relieved that she was not alone.

Today, I am reliving this feeling, this rewind of a life long past, and I can’t say I am not enjoying this. A consultant (at whatever humble level I practise) does not get his hands dirty. Today, I am not shy to say this, I had some of her puke on my hands. I must say that I have done far worse: shaved heads and pubes, pushed wheelchairs, got my dress mucked up with blood and pus, and removed thousands of maggots from the festering sores of drug addicts, beggars and alcoholics.

Thinking of all that, I can almost smell the old, smoky canteen of the medical college, and the anorexia which getting dirty used to generate. Today, I am not hungry. I have not eaten all day, and am going to be awake till morning. But I am not feeling dirty.

WATER SPORTS IN BALI

I have told you the story of how my holiday to Bali was almost torn asunder by the fact that I have not done well enough in life to buy Raffles Class tickets.

Well, on reaching, I took up water activities with a deep breath and a steely resolve. I will tell you why later. When it comes to swimming, I have always preferred the sea of words. I always felt H2O was two parts Hell, and one part Oxygen mask. Swimming was way too advanced for me, and I weaned it out by taking to the jacuzzi. Though I have always avoided water activities beyond the shower, this was my first experience with jacuzzis.

As soon as I sat at the edge of a Jacuzzi, I felt the pleasant sensation of the water bubbling with energy and enthusiasm.

“Ah, this is life!”, I exulted and leaned back.

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I looked beside me and found a young South American woman who was built the way you would imagine young South American women to be built. Think Shakira, and you get the general idea.

“Hi”, my smile said.

“I am yours forever. Take me with you right now”, her’s replied.

Soon, smiles flew around everywhere. Shy and sensitive man that I am, I take my time opening out to a complete stranger, even Shakira. Just when global warming seemed like it was a personal experience rather than a scientific scam, I found bubbles of water exploding beneath me, with a million and a half bubbles, large and extra-large, zooming in like heat-seeking missiles to the South Pole of my testicles. My smile widened as long forgotten sensations re-awakened, and things got hotter.

I had briefly forgotten my part of the smile-exchange program. Soon, the intensity of the bubble attack increased so that I was virtually thrown up to the surface of the water, while my elbows were still resting on the edges of the tub. It was instantly obvious that the energy had rubbed off on parts of me. The Latina smiled even more widely. However, it disappeared before you could say “Your face or mine?” or whatever it is you are supposed to say in these unfamiliar situations. Her smile, as I was saying, went like money into a politician. Like an ozone hole in the stratosphere. Like free booze. You get the idea, right?

My wife had appeared behind me and, glaring pointedly at my missed opportunity, was saying, “Let’s go, we’re getting late”. Late? I felt a hole, new unexplored world slipping out of reach, as I lamely got up and followed my wife. For good measure, she gave the bimbo one of those looks that must have started the California fires.

“Do come back soon. I will miss you forever”, said the girl’s eyes.

Now, let me tell you about eyes. A sensitive sod like Mahendra has expressed some thoughts on them. If you are one of the lazy, decadent sort who, when provided every modern remote-controlled amenity in a house (remote-controlled fridge, microwave, TV, AC, bed, etc.), complains “Lekin remote dabaayegaa kaun?” (who will press the remote, but?), then let me indulge you. Don’t bother clicking that link. Save calories. Don’t heat up the globe no more.

Mahendra wrote:

If I were a tear in your eyes
I would lie on your cheeks and die on your lips

Some rascal commented:

If I were a tear in your panteyes
I would lie on your cheeks and die on your hips;

So, you know, eyes are very sensitive things. It takes a lot for a man to read the eyes of those whose every intimate thought is fleetingly reflected on them, like you can transiently see your face on the water of the toilet bowl when you just sit on the can. If your pot-belly doesn’t come in the way, that is.

The situation aforesaid and described was, people will tell you, just the thing to tell me to blow my fuse. In other words, defuse the situation. Forget about coming, I was going. If one expression could sum up the experience, it is the Indian “Dhatterigee (pooh-bah)!”

Ever since my mother was warned (by an astrologer) not to let me into water for fear of death, I have always been kept away from it. I would prefer going to mountain resorts rather than beaches. I even became allergic to sea food. My favorite girl friend quit eating prawns as a mark of devotion to me. At least, that is what she had me think, till she married a man who made millions selling prawns.

Anyways, I have ensured that my son does not suffer from his father’s handicaps. He learns swimming and loves it. I joined him at the pool, a ring around my torso, head precariously above water. Don’t you just admire the fatherly commitment of a man who can’t swim, but still dons a ring and endangers his valued life just so that his son feels happy? If there a few freebies in the form of unclad women strewn about in the pool, does it really detract from this sacrifice?

I wanted him to do more than just try to teach me to swim. I suspected it was just a ploy of his not to exercise, and I would have none of it.

When I saw him (urban telly-belly and all) make a couple of sluggish moves to swim just two paces away and then float in relieved surrender, my hackles got up. I admonished him and exhorted him to be more energetic.

I said, “Do you know, an eight year old Indian girl swam hundreds of miles across the English Channel in twenty four hours? Just imagine doing that!”

An admiring, wondering look crossed his eyes. “Daddy…”

“Ah, it’s working, Dad!” I congratulated myself.

“Daddeee?!”

“Yes, son?”

“Daddy, how did she do potty during that time?

Things rapidly deteriorated after that with jokes coming up of a tidal wave throwing back her potty on her head, among others. Enough! I will not write on this crap any more.

Postscript: The young girl, Swapnali Yadav, had actually taken less than twelve hours in a swimming marathon in Kalamata, Greece, a distance of some thirty kilometers. Trust me to get my facts muddled after the electric shocks and other tortures I was subjected to after the jacuzzi fiasco. My mom’s astrologer was right after all. Water is dangerous for me.

PURE EVIL!

So it was my long-due holiday with my first, official wife and my only official son.
The destination was, as not decided by me, Bali.
If you were on the same plane, you could have found me. Don’t believe me?

First things first, where would you not find me? In the Business or First Class. Or Raffle or Waffle Classes, neither.

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Next thing: where would you look for me? You would find me in the rear half of the plane, seated by the window. You want to find me, just ask the air hostess which passenger they have NOT served in any way, in spite of fifteen red alert SOS messages sent. Yup, that would be your man!

Other passengers, especially in the Kolkata-Bangkok or Kolkata-Singapore sector, keep pestering the air hostesses for beer and whisky. Now, you will never see me do such things. I have class, you know. I always ask for Cognac, or if I am feeling particularly proletarian at a given point in life, Jack Daniels.

You must envy me for the memorable views of the seas and the city-lights-by-night that are included in my window-seat economy fare ticket. Well, the answer is: yes, the views are breast-taking breathtaking (as in a sigh), but only in those instances where the plane’s wings are made of glass. When the plane is made out of metal, I can’t even see my own nuts because, you see, I always get a seat bang where the wing is at its most expansive and braggadocious.

So, midway through the flight, the lunch was served and all….

Soon, everyone fell into a slumber, aided by the dim lights. You know how it is.

Suddenly, a guy (the brother of a man who is known both to me and Oemar) in front of me let out a silent stinker. A brief latent period later, a satellite fart was emitted by this gas-bag.

I know, you are going to ask me how I knew it was him. Do I have a GPS For Gas? No, but my glasses fogged up at the very center, and so it had to be he, the one in front of me.

Soon, by a physical process my class VIII teacher had caned me into learning as diffusion occurred, and the stench wafted invisibly, just as would a deadly poison released by a sect of differently sane people, like Aum Shinrikyo.

I believe this is the real WMD that Saddam Hussein had managed to mass produce before the good US President got a whiff of it. When Saddam got rid of it, the Kurds died in silence, and Bush was too embarrassed to tell the world what the real biological WMD was. The subsequent rise in global temperatures was ascribed to carbon emissions from modern society. Ha, the irony of Al Gore getting the Nobel Peace Prize for what has been Bush’s signal contribution to mankind!

If you ever need to explain the term ‘pure evil’, this is precisely the stuff what would need to be bottled and marketed to the world. You know what, those bearded scientists (with traces of the morning’s scrambled eggs on their beards), who clamor against deodorants and vaporizers because they burn holes in the ozone layer, could do with a few of these. A mere whiff is enough to depress the respiratory center in the medulla oblongata of the brain for several seconds. Persistent exposure to this noxious agent is, I am certain, responsible for many cases of unexplained sudden deaths in public places. If, on one fine day, you hear that I have been deservedly conferred the Nobel, like Gore, you know now it will be for my research on this subject. Anyways, let us get back to the episode on the plane.

My wife woke up and looked here, there, and soonest, at me, instinctly wanting to identify the culprit. When my eyes met hers’, my expression was ‘It’s that guy again!’ You know, now that I am bloggin’ and all, I don’t talk much with her; I merely express smileys. Faster and more effective: why waste words? In this case, I used the roll-eyes smiley.

In spite of many years of marriage, or perhaps because of it, she misunderstood me. With her iPod rocking on her ears, she said, “How could you do this?”
Her voice, normally quieter than a jockey whispering endearments to his horse in the hope of hitting the top spot in the race, boomed out from her lips, and ricocheted off the white walls of the plane. The neighborhood and I were jolted, in unison. Damn the iPod! Damn Steve Jobs!!

I closed my eyes in disbelief, thinking how she could do this to me. When I opened my eyes, I saw her waving a handkerchief furiously in my direction. As if on cue, the tourist class of humanity from 34 ABC to 52 DEF were all waving white handkerchieves in my direction, like a bunch of Chinese children lining the streets of Beijing, greeting a visiting General of Myanmar. Only that no smiles improved their ugly faces.

In the meanwhile the culprit got up to go to the toilet.
It was all I could do to restrain myself from throwing an airline specialty, the rolled piece of dough they call a bun or roll, on the back of his head. Good I didn’t. It would probably have killed him and gotten me in jail.

As if this was not enough, my son chimed in with a typical smartass chorus, like a qawwal follows the indignant query of the hero. You know, when the Bollywood hero asks the heroine ‘tuh kab milegi?’ (when will I get you?), the flunkey with the funny cap follows with ‘kab milegi tuh?’, all the while clapping his dirty hands….?

This boy asked, just in case anyone had not heard his mom, “Daddy, how could you do this?”

My holiday, even before it started, was completely ruined in public calumny. Initiated by my own family. Now, how could I not retaliate? I decided to disown this thumb-sucking rat, and divorce the wife….

However, considering that my family has stood by me through thin and thick (mostly speaking in waist-hip ratio terms), I decided to forgive them. Besides, after sulking for one hour, it kinda gets boring in an airplane. Not to say how difficult it is to assume an injured and morally upright posture when the neighborhood treats you like you carry the H5N1 virus.

And the air hostesses think the guy asking for the cognac is a maniac. Little do these insensitive women know he wants to drown his sorrows, and wash away his bad olfactory memories, in the nectar.

(pic: http://www.slenders.be)

HARRY POTTER AND THE CAVE OF OSAMA

Harry Potter had a dream. His scar was burning like his bum did after taking an overdose of Polyjuice Potion. He saw Lord Osamort relaxing in his lair in Mushydabad, in the hilly terrains of North West Pakistan. He saw Osamort (Osama to those close to him) watching a Presidential debate on U-Tube. An evil laugh filled the cave, as Osama leered at Hillary holding forth on Iraq. The Duck Lord looked aside and picked up his iPhone: “Hey, Afzal, how much have we spent on the US elections yet? What, only 5 million dollars? That won’t even cover the cost of the Washington madams! I tell you, we need to win this election! Get hold of some more! Ask those Dubai bastards to fish out some more from Bollywood or somewhere, or else!”
www.glennajorose.com/

With a single touch of his finger, the iPhone seamlessly opened up the iTunes application, calling out the muezzin’s call to the faithful to pray. Osama prayed. Every dime of the $699 had been worth it, he thought!
Harry woke up, sweating, his head feeling like a football dropped on Afghanistan from an American helicopter.
“The infidels shall play, I mean pay!” Harry heard the voice of You-Know-Where speaking. He had been warned that using the O word would trigger security alerts in the virtual world, with the American spies hunting down a lot of Obama supporters in their dyslexic search for Osama supporters.
Harry now knew that his nemesis was planning some horrible calamity to befall the US (like another Al Gore movie) as his revenge for the millions of anti-Islamic activities of the West. Like the fight against global warming… how dare they try to prevent the Holy Poppy from being burnt? He would soon make them poppers, he had promised.
Many years of hiding after 9/11 had bored O. He decided to make the most of what remained of his life, Inshallah! There was only one person who could come between him and absolute control over the world: that disgusting boy called Harry Potter.

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Using his iPhone, Osama touched the screen, and went into Google Earth to track down Potter. He saw Potter and his friends practising spells on Chinese mannequins.
“Hell, I hope the lead doesn’t kill them before I do”, he growled.
He shouted out, “Ayman! Where the sanctified fornication are you? This damn soap case does not come with an IM facility! Get me something that can hang well, like a Nokia N-series!”
Ayman hastened to his master with a cell phone. “Calling all Health Eaters!” he typed.
Yes, sir?” came in Hillary’s instant response.
O: Whr s Potr?
H: We are trying to find him, sir, I think he may be in the White House now. The last we saw him was going by boat to Cuba with Michael Moore, where he put in a Babbling Curse on the man.
Hillary didn’t have an iPhone, and so it was taking like fifty minutes to type one message. So she cut it short like O already had.
O: Y he do tht?
H: To mk muvee luk gud and fit tha fat.
H: Typo, fit d fact.
H: Typo 2. Fit d figures with facts. Or frig the ..
O: Stupefy!

Far away, Harry was watching this happen. He simply could not block these painful visions, because he was as bad at blocking others’ thoughts (Occlumency) as the Indian Leftists were good at it. He knew now what Osama’s evil plan was. He would hunt Harry down first, and then destroy and take over the United States. The UK would become an official US colony, which wouldn’t really change anything, but Hogwarts would be renamed as Hogwash.
Because he knew Disapparating would be a sure way of getting caught by local Dementors called HuJis, Harry took a low-fare flight from London to Albania, and sure enough, the pilot mistakenly landed the plane in Karachi, Pakistan, because the plane’s GPS system failed.
In Karachi, Harry logged on to http://www.osamaishere.net.co.pak, asked for directions to the Duck Lord’s cave, and in two hours, was just outside it. Osama knew Harry was coming, as the latter had stupidly put in a notice on his blog that he was going on leave.
“Harry, prepare to die!” said the Duck Lord.
“Crucio”, cried Harry.
(The Cruciatus curse causes instant and agonizing pain on the sufferer, leading to insanity. It is one of the Three Unforgivable Curses.)
Immediately, Osama was transformed to a patient in a corporate hospital without insurance coverage. A big burly Indian nurse called Mayawati refused him admission.
“All beds are reserved for those who are scheduled to come in now. However, please don’t lose your Reliance on us! As this is an emergency, I can do a free rectal exam on you right now.”
However, You-Know-Where had his faithful hordes.
Hillary reappeared and cast a spell that freed Osama.
“Nagini! Get him!!” You-Know-Where hissed in Parseltongue.
Immediately, Paris Hilton appeared and tried to crash her car into Harry. Harry survived the attack and let loose a Bushilliarmus curse from his magical wand that crushed buildings, hospitals, schools, factories, school buses, and caused death and devastation to all. Except to the Duck Lord.
Finally, as Osama let loose the dreaded Avada Kedavra spell, Harry converted to Socialism and hit back with a Riddikulus Act. Osama became weak and semi-comatose, like a minority Government, and then Harry hit him with a lethal spell of his own: “Obesify!”
As his body bloated up crazily and then exploded, Osama’s eyes lit up for a fraction of a second as a part of his fragmenting soul got trapped in a hammer and sickle lying nearby. As the light died from his eyes, he laughed manically. He had died, but his Horcrux was still living to fight another day. The future, he knew, was his alone! Quack, quack!