Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Internship Blues . . . . . .

The modified version of the otherwise well known 'Food Chain'

(This latest blog of mine is dedicated to the numerous medical interns all over the country who at this moment in time are ghisaoing themseleves off doing mundane , useless , purposeless tasks ; or probably running some errand for someone higher up the hierarchy ; all in the name of learning something during this chaotic journey called internship.
So , incase you aren't or have'nt been an intern , chances are that you would'nt be able to appreciate the below expressed frustration.
And in a very clichédly and also very irritatingly schoolboyish way , let me begin with the dictionary meanings since doing monotonous manual labour during my internship has suffocated and killed all the creativity in me ; and I can't do any better than this.)

intern :
n. A physician who has recently graduated from medical school and is learning medical practice in a hospital under supervision, prior to beginning a residency program.
Usage :
'intern' as in , "Dr. John is training as an intern at the Irvine School of Medicine in California ."

also , Indian version

intern :
n. 1.poor innocent individual starting out with a whole set of impossible goals and naive ambitions that end up crushed under the path of some self-righteous bitch/bastard that is dissatisfied with his/her own life and for getting a ass as his/her superior and taking it out on cute young girls / sincere guys who might actually make something of their lives and live their dreams.

2. Free servants in the workplace.
'intern' as in: "Abbe Intern , sun na , go to the third floor , get me the brown file ; then go to the radiology dept , give it to the resident doctor there ; collect the reports of the urine samples you sent in the morning from the seventh floor ; come back here and don't you dare leave this place until I tell you to do so.You got that ?!?"

Note : Article 4 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, explicitly banned slavery.

Im currently at the fag end of my internship.And Im tired , irritated , frustrated and annoyed with the system.

Fact no. 1 :
The intern is on the lowest step in the food chain. Not only can he be eaten up by the one on the step above him , but by anyone and everyone above him in the food chain ; and even those remotely unconnected to the food chain ! (see the photo diagram attached above )

Fact no. 2 :

An Intern may may lose his/her name for the duration of his/her posting . He/She will be referred to simply as 'INTERN' , or usually ' INTERN !!!!' or 'AYE INTERN!!'

Fact no. 3:

An intern's job is only blood collections.

Corollary : Blood collections are exclusively an intern's job.

Let me explain :

In the morning , the intern must complete his mandatory round of pricking every patient and drawing blood. However , if , at any other time during the day , should a need for more blood collections arise , 1 collection or 25 of them , no houseman will ever do that.

Even if a syringe+needle and a spirit swab is given to him, the lousy oaf would rather run about for hours looking for the intern and ask him to do it , he will keep 'missed calling' the intern continuously untill the intern finally calls back or he will give it a miss alltogether and then jhap the intern the next day , rather than do the collection and finish it off in a couple of minutes.

Fact no. 4 :

In the absence of the real naatevaik , the intern becomes the patient's naatevaik .
eg: "Aye sun na , dekh , yeh patient ka relative nahi hai , usko tu neeche X-ray nikaal ke leke aaja , aur phir upar la , iska 2-3 collection baaki hai , toh serum ammonia tu jaake Healthcare mein de , aur blood culture e-lab mein de de , aur sun , vapas aate waqt , uska X-ray collect kar lena phir CCL se iska reports trace kar na hai, aur haan , mein bhool hi gaya , iska grouping - cross matching ka sample blood bank mein dena hai , woh bhi kar na . aur jyaada timepass mat kar , jaldi aaja"
(Aaah ! Now we know why the relative is bloody absconding ! )

Fact no. 5 :
Apparently ,there is no job too low or unfitting for an intern.
Scenario i.
"Aye Intern , sun na , hum log ke liye chai leke aana , aur sun , khud ke liye bhi lena"

(WOW ! Thanks !! Im sooooooo happy , I needed that cup of tea 'SO' badly . . . yeah right )

Scenario ii.
"Aye sun na , dekh abhi 12 baj gaya hai , tu ward 40 mein jaake ruk , 2 o' clock ko mera ek relative aanewala hai , uska x-ray aur USG karvake aana "

(bus ?? itna hi ?? aur kuch nahi ? UNKO chai nahi mangta hai kya?? saala kaamchor !)

Scenario iii.
After 15 days in the same department , the registrar (houseman's boss - refer diagram) doesn't recognise you and asks you :
"Tu kaun hai ?"
Me - "Intern"
"Acha Ho gaya , chal sun , tereko 30 number ward malum hai?"
Me (trying to escape with a straight face) - "Nahi !"
"Bas Kya? Chal chod , Kisko bhi puchle , aur udhar jaake Sunita patient ka file leke aanaa"

(Harami sala , try telling a 50 year old , fat , post menopausal , irritated , rude , foul-mouthed , bitchy maushi to run this stupid errand and lets see if you come out alive from the verbal assault you'll recieve)

Scenario iv
"Intern , yeh Nirmala patient ka parso bheja hua urine culture ka report trace karke laa , aur sun , aaj subah jo bhi samples bheja tha , woh sub trace karke laa na "

(Aur kuch saheb ? Joota pochu ? jhadu ? pocha ? bathroom saaf karu ?)

Fact 6.
Sanity still exists .
Yes , It would be injustice to those housemen and registrars* , who have made life easier , if I didn't acknowledge their tolerant and friendly behaviour with us - interns.
Nonetheless , Internship has been an enriching experience during which I have made a lot of mistakes , learnt a lot from them , made great friends and had a ball !
* Dr Srikanth Kakad(Med) , Dr. Anup T (Med) Dr Trupti (Psy) , Dr Sachin(Surg) ,Dr Sundaram (Surg) , Dr Mihir (Orth), Dr Vikramaditya (surg) -RNCH - absolute gems and great clinicians .Thanks guys !

Disclaimer : (After spewing so much venom, I need to save my ass, don't I ?) 
Note : That the doctors and the paramedical staff at KEMH are doing a fantastic job with the resources available to them is a well known fact , and is sincerely appreciated by the author. With due respect to the senior doctors at KEMH , the picture alongside the article is only a satirical caricature of the hierarchial architecture that exists in our hospitals.No part of this picture or this article depicts any particular individual(s) , but , it is merely an exaggerated reflection of the system in place.The author's over indulgence is not meant to hurt any concerned party's sentiments.No offence should be taken since , none is intended.

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Friday, December 01, 2006

After Gandhi-giri , is this Baba-giri ? . .

A statue of Dr. B R Ambedkar is destroyed in Kanpur . Within a few hours , Maharashtra burns. A 23 year old youth loses his life in the riots in Nashik. One more is killed in Osmanabad district.A curfew is imposed in Pimpri and Pune .Sporadic rioting is seen all over Mumbai with public transport virtually shutting down. People stranded at work , schools shut; roads closed. Chaos all over. But the worst is yet to come , 2 boggies of the Deccan Queen are burnt in Ulhasnagar.
All of this happened as a result the anger and rage amongst the people who wanted to protest against the desecration of Dr. Ambedkar's statue.Is the anger justified ? Yes. But are the means justified ? No way.
After Sanjubaba showed the nation what Gandhigiri was , are we now seeing Babagiri ? Most definitely not , if at all anything , its only dadagiri !
Dr. Ambedkar's vision of a discrimination free India was and is noble and exemplary. A man who was truly way ahead of his times. And at a time when dalits were discriminated against , he stood up for them and championed their causes, made consitutional arrangements to ensure equitable distribution of opportunities and resources . The old Hindu society ,supposedly had a religiously sanctioned racism that had maimed, dehumanized and destroyed hundreds of millions of people through the ages .
But now 56 years after Ambedkar took the first step in the social unification of India ,one doesn't see the kind of inhuman and degenerated practices of caste based discrimination often, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai.Ofcourse , my thoughts here , obviously , are those of an urban observer. The whole concept of 'untouchability' has been universally abolished . His vision , 'not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially' , has been achieved. But there is a lot of work left to be done.
I see no reason why burning trains , stoning shops , stopping traffic and disrupting normal life can do any good. I am not against the protests , I am against the way they protestors protest. Not only are the way they protested a massive waste of time , energy , human resources ; but more importantly this is a step back in time , in terms of our thoughts and idealogies. If someone's thoughts , ideas or actions hurt someone else's sentiments , there is surely a more civilised way to register one's protest.
The saddest part of this whole affair is that Dr. Ambedkar was a Gandhian , and would never have approved of this. He was someone who personified the idiom "the pen is mightier than the sword" . The country has come a long way in trying to achieve social uniformity , and this is not because of the politicians , but inspite of them.
However , when such unnecessary acts of violence take place , it only ensures further alienation of the so called oppressed section of society. They drift more and more away mainstream society , of which they themselves ,unknowingly , are such an integral part of. This 'Rang De Basanti and Lage Rahe Munnabhai ' generation should realise that only when this vision of a unified people is achieved ,will the country go ahead.
This vision will never be achieved overnight or in a matter weeks or months. It has to be a gradual, radical, sustained and united effort by an entire generation. It will be oppressed, suppressed and questioned; it may not be practical at first .Call it overtly Utopian , bhashanbaaji or impractical but a beginning has to be made somewhere. What we need is not a secular rethink, but a secular movement or perhaps even a secular revolution. It must change our thoughts, words, ideas and eventually reflect in our actions. And as citizens for peace, we know deep down inside that this is not only the path to peace but also to progress. The Power to help ourselves in within, we just need to find the strength to use it responsibly.
Jai Hind.
Jai Maharashtra.
© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Death Of Indian Cricket Telecasts

Indian Cricket Telecasting ,
1983 - 2006
Died an untimely death.
Allegedly driven to commit suicide by three main accused persons -
1.Excessive Sponsorship,21 ,
2.Mindless Competitions,45
3.Spaghetti Tops ,(sweet)16.
Last seen with a mumbling , fumbling , 'punny' , sardarji (previously convicted for assault on a parking attendant - with kicks and punches; now uses fast , meaningless words , expressions learnt by rote and brightly coloured matching ties and pagadis for the same purpose ).
Also implicated in the murder are 3 more accomplices -
1. Plunging Necklines,18
2. Extravagant Jewelery,43
3. Ghastly Make-up,33
All three of whom are known to work for an expert assasin - Ms Mandira Bedi , by attracting the onlookers' attention towards themselves , thus successfully concealing their boss' incomprehensibile, insignificant, negliglible knowledge of cricket.
All the suspects and accused work together in tandem , simultaneously ; to create one of the biggest blunders in Indian Television History , on the most inappropriate platform , a daily soap channel - SET max.
Resuscitation was attempted by Bhogle , Gavaskar et al ; however , it was all in vain . . . .
The last words , reportedly heard were "Hoo Haa India" (meaning and purpose not known).
© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Monday, November 06, 2006

That Familiar Tune . . . . Once again. . . .

I was pleasantly surprised to find this old song on the net - I remember, as a kid , it used to be one of my favourite songs on TV.And not simply because it had a very catchy , multi-linguistic , patriotic tinge to it ; but because it had an absolutely stunning video ! That song was "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara" . . . One of the doordarshan-ised Prasar Bharati released National Integration songs that stuck in my memory . Another one that I can recall is "Baje Sargam Har taraf se" .
Anyways , after looking up for it on the net I found out that Mile sur mera tumhara was released in 1987 commemorating the 40th anniversary of Indian Independence .The amazing part of the video was the beautiful , yet simple way in which it captured the absolute essence of each and every state it featured - picking up famous celebrities from each state , combined with great locales , stirring music and vocals by stalwart from the field of music - the result being a masterpiece.
Its an absolute treat - The tall man manoeuvring his boat , the tibals dancing with the mountains of the north east in the back ground , Narendra Hirwani , Kamal Hassan , that tall thin malayali on an elephant , Hema Malini , Lata Mangeshkar , the punjabi family of 15 - all on one tractor! , Kapil Dev ,Shabana Azmi , Sunil Gavaskar running with the flame torch in the rain , Amitabh Bachchan , Jitendra with Mithun ! , the metro of Kolkata , Mario Miranda painting a landscape in Goa , and finally the Tricoloured kids coming in running from three different directions (remember the sardar kid wearing a saffron pagadi?!) . . .with the music building up into a crescendo and finally merging in with Jana Gana Mana You could
feel the goosebumps and the lump in the throat as you watch the video . .As kids , we obviously couldnt have appreciated the finer points of this song but there was something in it that made us fall in love with it and watch it over and over again each time it was aired on DD.
The newer National Integration promotional videos aired on TV with all maestros singing a few lines each of the national anthem on an A R Rahman composed background score and video shot in Ladakh is indeed good , but , not a patch on Mile Sur.. -(Sigh!) They don't make 'em like this anymore . . . .

The link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7OkWpfTz1U&mode=related&search

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Celebrating Jumbo

It is indeed sad but true - Indian Cricket is all about stars-stars with flair, style and charisma. One wouldn’t mind India losing a match, if Sachin scored a century in it or Sehwag got a trailblazing 50. And there lies unfortunate way in which we perceive the game and its spirit. Talking about match winners, Sachin undoubtedly is one of India’s biggest performers, yet he has not been the most consistent, persistent, diligent performer for India; and no, I’m not talking about Dravid either. The most underrated, overlooked yet most productive player for India in recent times has been Anil Kumble. And this is not me, but the statistics that shout it out aloud. Away from the limelight and the media’s glare , poor old Jumbo does not get a small mention anywhere in the various cricket columns written by everybody from ex cricketers to administrators to scantily clad television anchors , even on his birthday – 17th October. I’m sure everyone remembers the newspaper supplements and magazine covers dedicated to Sachin on his birthday. But I know, Anil Kumble, as always would be the last person to be perturbed by this. For someone who holds an array of bowling records (including being only the 2nd person in the history of the game to score 2000 runs and 500 wkts in Tests, after Warne), he is hardly a discussed name in Indian Cricket. Nonetheless, I hope this stalwart is blessed with greater success in the future, and the selectors - the wisdom to pick him in the team. All the Best Jumbo

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Monday, October 09, 2006

All Blown Away

I hate to be repetitive but I just have been so absorbed by the formula 1 championship that I just couldn’t help myself from blogging about it . . .
Michael Schumacher retired from the Japanese Grand Prix due to an engine failure, in a race that he would have most definitely won, had fate not intervened. . . . Bitter Bitter disappointment. To understand the extent of disappointment of Schumacher’s exit from the race, one needs to know the situation.
2004 – Schumacher wins 13 out of 16 races – he showed unbelievable consistency, absolutely no one came close.
2005 – The ground below Schumacher’s feet slipped giving him no time to react! He slumped to a miserable finish at 3rd position in the championship. Alonso’s great driving and McLaren Mercedes’ bad luck narrowly snatched away the championship from Raikkonen’s grasp.
2006 – Everyone expected Alonso to steam roll the competition into submission, but guess who’s back in form – The man in scarlet – Michael Schumacher. Now 2006 was an uphill task for Schumacher because he not only had to regain his lost fire but he also had to catch up with the flying Spaniard.
The season after the US grand prix swung heavily in favour of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, with the German showing why he is the undisputed king of the track. Simultaneously the cracks in Renault started up – an engine failure at Monza for Alonso and he lashed out in the press, blasting off his own team for lack of support, He then went on and blamed the FIA (Federation Internationale d’Automobile) the regulatory body of F1, alleging them of “rigging” formula one, of fixing results and of manipulating the rules and regulations to help Michael Schumacher.
Now Monza (Italian Grand Prix) was even more poignant and historic because Michael Schumacher after much speculation declared his intentions of retiring at the end of the season. Cut to Shanghai, Michael Schumacher overtook Alonso on the track – fair and square; yet Fernando went on record saying that Renault was deliberately botching up his championship chances. This surely was not the way a true champion would react to failure. A true champion is one who after victory, rejoices, celebrates but begins his quest for the next win; and at the same time, takes defeat in his stride, not looking for scapegoats for his failure.
The Scenario before Suzuka (Japanese Grand Prix) – Alonso and Schumacher – both were tied at the top of the championship table with 116 points a piece.
As the race progressed, Schumacher stamped his authority all over the race by overtaking Massa, albeit in a preplanned move, and running off at the head of the pack of cars. Alonso, too, to his credit splendidly overtook Trulli and then tactically, in an engrossing game of pit-lane poker came in front of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa after the first round of pit stops.
The stage was all set for an epic battle to the finish – The Grand Master versus the New kid on the block.
Sadly, it was not to be. In an unfortunate twist to the tale, Schumacher’s engine blew up, a mere 17 laps from the chequered flag, leaving Alonso to take the lead. Alonso, now in 1st place, drove a flawless race after that to finish the race, which in all probability is his championship clinching race.
But what happened after that was truly special. Schumacher stepped out of his, now defunct car, waved out to his fans – not the most common thing you would see a driver do, after having to retire from the lead position of a grand prix. He walked all the way back to the pit lane; into the Ferrari garage, with a smile on his face. He met each and every member of the pit-crew. Hugging and shaking hands with them , thanking them for the unflinching support he had received from them .He walked across to the Ferrari think tank – Jean Todt and Ross Brawn , embraced both of them and sat down with them to watch the remainder of the race; all without showing any disappointment or anger.
Was he not disappointed? Of course he was, and why not? It was his penultimate grand prix. He was leaving the job he loved doing the most. It was his only chance at winning his 8th Championship but now it was all over. Which driver wouldn’t feel aggrieved? But here was a true champion. And here in lies the difference between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.A driver who has won 92 times and one who has raced 85 times. I am sure Alonso will go on to be an illustrious driver with a great record. But he has lots to learn from Michael. Schumi had demonstrated his ability to ruthlessly strive to win but to also accept defeat gracefully, something a certain hot headed Spaniard has yet to learn. The wizened old man of Formula one isn’t the most revered person in F1 for nothing. His track record speaks for itself. But his true character shone through in the most unlikely of times.

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Shame on Schumi. . Its solely his fault !

It was after ages that I actually got to see an entire F1 race start to finish (Qualifiers included ) . And boy! was it an interesting race or what !
I am, without doubt, one of Schumacher's biggest admirers. And as all Schumi fans do, I too, do not want Fernando Alonso to win. Yet, this Sunday, what we witnessed was sheer magic from the Spaniard's car.
From starting behind Schumi, to overtaking him, to lapping him, to finally almost winning the grand prix; he achieved what nobody else might have. Unfortunately for Alonso, his premature exit handed Schumi an opportunity to get some championship points. With Alonso out, Schumacher then drove the most magnificent 10 - 12 laps, setting fastest laps after fastest laps, in conditions which were drying fast. Where half the cars on track had dry weather tyres;Schumacher made driving look like child's play , setting the circuit on fire , and that too on intermediate tyres (tyres not meant for overtly wet conditions , but not ideal for dry track conditions - hence the name).
Going past Coulthard, Kubica, Ralf and Massa, MS soon found himself in 2nd position once De La Rosa pitted. Now , Ferrari have always been one of the most talented and shrewd teams on the pit wall , for they have at the core of the team think tank 3 brilliant minds - Ross Brawn , Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher. This formidable trio has seen Scuderia Ferrari scale new heights with many a world championship and also seen humbling lows like last season. But more often than not; their skill, decision making capabilities and blind faith on each other have seen their team sail through. However, it just wasn’t their day today.
Mistake number 1, when MS pitted for the 2nd time, they should have put him on dry weather tyres. The track was drying fast and it would have been difficult if Michael had to make another pit stop for a change of tyres.It was imperative that Ferrari change the tyres .If not putting in new dry weather tyres; atleast replace the intermediates he was on.
Mistake number 2. Not pulling him in for a change with 11 laps to go.Schumi was 2nd, De La Rosa - 3rd (8 seconds behind him) and 26 seconds behind him was Nick Heidfeld.
Now Schumi's eyes would have lit up with the prospect of him wiping off 8 points off Alonso's championship lead in a single stroke. And he wasn’t going to give it up for anything.Sadly, both De La Rosa and Heidfeld were on dry weather tyres that were making the cars clock a good 5 second quicker than the cars on intermediates. This meant that it was only inevitable that Michael would be pushed down the order, and the fights for 3rd and 4th places that ensued took its toll on Michael's car and the German had to retire with just 3 laps to go.
Had he pitted in for a tyre change when the gap between him (2nd) and Heidfeld (4th) was 25 seconds, there would have been enough time for him to get out of the pits and still be ahead of Heidfeld , albeit in 4th place - losing a place to McLaren's De La Rosa. Instead , Schumacher's greed saw him fight a losing battle on bald tyres offering him no grip.
You could almost feel Schumacher's unwillingness to cede even a single point to Alonso's 11 point lead. He wanted to extract as much a large pound of flesh as he could from Alonso's lone DNF (did not finish) of the season till date. Had he thought logically and nursed his car to the race the tale might have been different. Alas, hindsight is always 20/20.And so the F1 circus moves on to Turkey .And the championship table at the top stands as if Hunagaroring didn’t happen at all. I don’t want to prophetically declare that the championship might just have been thrown away by MS, but Hungary 2006, is a race he would like to forget, for sure.

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Middle Path

During my medicine posting in my internship training program, I was posted in an exclusive HIV unit. Almost all the patients admitted in the unit were in various stages of the disease resulting from HIV infection.A very scary experience indeed . Being a doctor , I know that touching these patients wont give me the disease , but I also know what a tiny error in judgment while collecting blood or inserting an intravenous line or handling these patients' samples , can do .I mean , there were times when I'd see these patients and then try to think , how would I react to being told that I have this disease that is definitely going to kill me and that I will live for only a few years from now , and the number of years , too can be anything from three yrs to 8-10 yrs.
The number of HIV positive patients in Mumbai is mind numbingly high. Tuesdays (new cases) and Thursdays (follow up) are the HIV OPD days in KEM Hospital. Each Tuesday meant at least 100 new cases in KEM alone.
Consider this scenario : A person hailing from UP (or usually Bihar/TN/Kar) , leaving behind his wife in his native place , comes to Mumbai ,in search of a job.. . . lands up with a menial job as a taxi driver or something even less satisfying - financially . During his long lonesome stay in Mumbai , he succumbs eventually to temptation and visits a CSW (commercial sex worker/prostitute) , gets infected with the virus ; months later gets his wife and kid back here , obviously , his wife , in due course gets infected and then they have a child . The child unfortunately is then HIV positive, with of course, an HIV –ve sibling, who will be left all alone in a few years' time.
The surprising thing about this scenario is the consistency with which it presents itself again and again and again . . .I , personally , in my short stint , have seen at least 25 such patients.
And I thought I had seen it all, until I saw this: Champa, Kanaiamma, Rosy – three HIV +ve hijdas in the OPD.
Hijdas are such a mystery. Now I have had these Q&A sessions with all my non medical friends, when we all are having a night out or something like that, where everybody clarifies their myths they have heard and believed in. Sex related queries, weird medical questions ….the works. And believe me; this issue on Hijdas has come up very often. What is a hijda?

I have friends, who are mortally scared of Hijdas. Many of my friends duck inside the car when they see Hijdas on the road (this group includes fully grown men too!). Puzzlingly, effeminate men or ' baylyas*' are ridiculed by being called 'chakka' or 'hijda', but, surprisingly, every hijda that I or my friends have seen or met has always, unfailingly, been more masculine than all my friends and me put together with their thick baritone voice that's high on bass, along with their, incredibly and amazingly loud clap (which comes out loud in the first attempt!) – "Aye Raju". Add to this , a healthy dose of being felt all over by them - and who wouldn't give money to not be subjected to that. I have also been at the receiving end of some rather nauseous, vulgar and stunningly quick, obscene visuals; which of course make the hijda community, collectively, even more repulsive.
The fact, however is that these Hijdas have successfully managed to only isolate them further. These Hijdas are basically either castrated men or hermaphrodites (born with genitilia of both sexes) or just plain men masquerading as Hijdas. They are shunned from society, regarded as the third sex and are given no social rights what so ever. The result being, they have to resort to obnoxious behaviour so that a fear psychosis is built in the minds of the people who then are vulnerable to demands for money at traffic signals, weddings, child births, etc.
But the most disturbing aspect is their disturbing and promiscuous sexual behaviour.
Hijdas work as CSWs .Yes, prostitutes. And obviously the question to ask is who 'does' them?
Well, a lot of people. Hijdas prefer to be passive partners in any form of sexual contact with men, i.e., they are always at the receiving end, literally and figuratively.
So here are these Hijdas who presented with HIV related symptoms, and were clinically investigated and revealed to have HIV infection. They come to the HIV OPD at KEM Hospital.
Now the governments of Maharashtra and India have done this fantastic job of setting up ART (anti retroviral therapy) cells in main hospitals , which provide anti HIV drugs at a massively subsidized rate of about Rs 1200-1300 per month versus Rs 4000-6000 if taken over the counter. This as a one time expense is affordable , but as a life long recurring expense , it is quite a tough ask.
Well , what about loans ? Most Hijdas are unregistered individuals – with no proof of residence , nationality , ration card , driver's license, election card and passport ; they simply don't exist for the government . And the question of actually paying this large sum , every month, for as long as they might live , only for medicines is a tough one to answer given the means this money is earned. Hospitalisation can further complicate issues...
So, sadly, the Hijdas return to their homes, now diagnosed as HIV +ve, resigned to their fate.
These Hijdas however exhibit great understanding of the situation and refrain from any sexual activity, once diagnosed as sero positive.
Where does this leave them?
What is the government doing for them, who are as much a citizen of this country as you or me? Rehabilitation ? Loans ? Insurance ? Apart from the rare headline grabbing event of a eunuch being elected to the local government body somewhere in the interiors of India, absolutely nothing….
At least the next 'aye raju' you hear, evokes not just fear, but also some sympathy

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mumbai - resilient or indifferent ?

Yesterday was a sickening day . Sickening just doesnt sum it up .I was at my old house at about 6:45 pm when Parag called me up to ask if I had heard of any bombs going off anywhere , I said I had no idea since i didnt have a TV there and that I was going home , so I'd check it there and call him back in a few minutes.He , uncharacteristically and abruptly, hung up.It struck me a few minutes later that i could probably check online on some news site if what he said was actually true, and lo - the first headline on rediff.com said "Bomb Blast at Khar Road Stn."
I tried calling Parag , and after about twenty futile attempts to get through , I gave up.I left for home and what I saw on TV shocked the devil out of me !
7 bomb blast.
0ver 150 killed
over 700 injured
My first reaction was of denial and then I was just shocked....Shocked , numbed and unable to react to the visuals the news channels kept throwing .
Bodies being strewn , blood splattered train compartment, limbs , torsos lying around.
Panic .Fear . Phone lines jammed(It now dawned on me why Parag had 'hung' up).Helplessness.
You couldnt help but feel for the weary traveller returning home after a tiring day in his/her usual 6:15 Borivili fast , and was jolted , out of the blue ; of all the unexpected things, a bomb! And now not being able to tell people at home that he or she is safe.
What about those who died ?
I tried calling everybody I knew who lived on the Western Line. After innumerable attempts , I managed to trace the few people i knew on the Western line, and thankfully , they were all safe.
And then , the tales of common people going out of their way to help people stranded , injured. . . .
One such tale :
Written by an acquaintance of mine , sent to me by Narsi:
"....."STUNNED" - Mumbai Mirror."7 BLASTS ROCK MUMBAI"- yahoo headlines.Which editor wrote these lines? Which fool had the guts to talk about my mother land, MY CITY being stunned!!! I was there. I was on the train, in the hospital and on the streets and I didn't see Stunned. I saw Stunning...stunning acts of kindness. And nothing rocked Mumbai. No self respecting Mumbaikar can believe that. No. Its not 'blasts rock Mumbai' because Mumbai rocked, man. She simply ROCKED.Here is my story.For those who came in late...I have started working in a tutoring firm at Andheri. So it's the night shift for me since the students are based in the States. So there I was standing at Dadar station. Waiting for the Borivili fast. She came bang on time. After the normal physical exercise routine (in other cities they call this 'boarding a train'...we Mumbaikars know better:) I got in. The train started.
Next stop Bandra...Lots of people got in...some tried to get out. After the usual round of expletives, shouting and 'chod do na yaar...are maramari mat karo' (forget about it, man...don't fight guys) the train started.BOOM!
My first impression was that the over head wire that supplies current to the train's engine had snapped. There had been a flash like a yellow light and then the lights went out. People started panicking. I don't know why but at such times I have the tendency to restore calm....a very close friend had once called this habit...tere mein kida kam nahi hain..(can't translate this one)
Anways, I roared out that people should calm down. Miraculously, they did. Someone asked for the chain to be pulled but by then the motorman had pushed the breaks. I jumped out of the train like the rest of the commuters and saw that the first class compartment ahead of us had blown up.
I moved towards the compartment. People had already started pulling others out. Lots of guys had climbed the harbour line bridge that starts near Bandra station. Slowly, the injured started emerging. The first guy whose hand I held was merely stunned. He didn't have any money left...his wallet was gone I think. I gave him twenty bucks and he went his way. As I turned towards the train, I saw a guy with lots of blood on his face...thankfully none of it was his.

He had temporarily lost his sense of hearing. Walked with him for a distance. Bandra station was a stone's throw away from the blown-up compartment. He recovered soon and some one took him to the station. I turned and saw four guys carrying a fifth. The injured man was alive but i think, his hand would have to be amputated. A big guy was holding the patient's right shoulder and was shouting for some one to steady the man's head ,which had no support. With nothing else to do, I stepped in.We took him to Bhaba hospital, Bandra. While the journey up till the auto rickshaw was tough ,the journey till the hospital was an eye opener.
Carrying a 90 kilo man over the railway tracks, then over a 2 foot incline near the tracks, then over a railing and through the jam caused by the numerous autos which were ferrying patients to the hospital was tough even when four of us were carrying him. We reached the main road outside the station and got into the auto. The big saand (strong-guy) who had earlier called me for help, literally dragged a fellow who had hired the auto out and we got ourselves in. The big guy was sitting with the auto driver and I along with two others was holding the injured man on our laps.
Then the most beautiful thing happened. The guy to my right told the one to my left to start reciting verses from the Koran and to blow on the man's head. I think it is some Muslim prayer. The big guy said,"Oh lord! Have Mercy on this man!". A few minutes later that injured man who was half awake all this time started saying "Shiv shiv shiv...om namah shivay ...om namah shivay."
When I think back about that moment I smile to myself. We six of us in that small auto heading towards the hospital had done it. We had defeated the terrorists. Who can say we were stunned...we won guys. We won. We defeated the terrorists' plan by that simple act of helping a fellow INDIAN. We didn't have to invade Pakistan or kill Muslims. We had won. Of course we could have lost if the 2 muslims had walked away from the man knowing that he was Hindu but they didn't. They continued working with me at the hospital for nearly an hour transporting bodies to the morgue, taking patients to the upper floors and providing a little water to the other impromptu volunteers. Going towards the office after all this was over, was probably the stupidest thing I ever did but that gave me the chance to see the City become one. Guys in designer tees, shorts etc. were flooding out of their houses with water bottles. The rick I used was stopped in 4 places...two places for others to get in ( the driver lied saying we were going to Parel.) and at two others, hands full of Parle-G biscuits were thrust in so that we and the thousands of others like us who had been affected by the Western railway system being shut down could have something to eat. The over crowded buses were being given food and water at some signals with people throwing biscuit packets into the bus...even good old Bourbon biscuit...yummy:):):)

All in all a lot happened yesterday but my city didn't budge. We have been hit before, we have been hit yesterday and we will continue to get attacked. The only thing to do is to come together. Together as One. For that is what the terrorists don't want to see. They don't realise that the more they attack us, the closer we become. We cant let ourselves go down so we can't give up.You may think what I did was pretty heroic...it was may be...but I like so many others wouldn't like to be called heroes. It feels very uncomfortable. If you want to give us a name just call us Mumbaikars. That name is all-inclusive...

I was moist eyed by the time I finished reading this . Cynics , pessimists call Mumbai insensitive , indifferent and what not. But there is no denying that , even though i know , it sounds cliched , and i care a damn that it does , "the spirit of Mumbai just doesnt die . . ."
My gratitude to the thousands who carried the dead and the injured ;
to the thousands who poured on the streets and gave food and water to the stranded
; to the thousands who lined up the hospitals volunteering to donate blood ;
to the incredible never say die attitude of the doctors in the Municipal hospitals (at one point in the night at KEM's ESR -emerg surg room , had more doctors than patients - they couldve handled a war , forget these blasts ;
to the thousands of Ishan Bholes.
Salaam Mumbai .
Jai Hind , Jai Maharashtra.

© 2006 .No part of this article may be reproduced or quoted without the expressed permission of Akshay Gopinathan Nair .