Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Celebrated Dancer

She sat through the program with great difficulty. The dancer had been written about in that morning's paper, which had worked its charm and attracted a lot of audience. The lady in question had talked at length about her artistic blood, the creativity that flowed through her when music came on. Nothing of it was evident in the performance. The crowd this article had managed to pull was more than some of the senior and better dancers got in this city of art and culture.

The music was out of the world, but her critical eye assessed the mudras, the posture, the arai mandi, and found everything lacking. That would have been okay if the artist had been engaging. There was a total disconnect. She looked around to see if only she was being so sore. No, the audience was busy trying to look interested, quoting from the article that morning, trying to justify their presence here.

As the dancer ended the main piece of the evening, the sabha staff placed chairs. "Oh god!" she groaned inwardly. "Why do they torture us with speeches!" she thought miserably.

When the chief guest, also a renowned dancer - spoke highly of the dancer, she got up and came out, nauseated at the undeserved eulogy.

She smiled at the familiar office staff who was standing near the entrance.

"How did you like the program?" the lady asked.

She smiled noncommittally. "Very well known abroad, is she?"

Now it was the turn of the other lady to smile noncommittally. "She has given a large donation," the lady added proudly. "They are very well to do there."

That explained it, she thought as she waved a bye and vanished into the night, trying not to let her dark thoughts affect her. If only she had that kind of money, she thought as she boarded the bus. Who cares how she performed, it was money and influence at the end of the day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anubavangal: Oru thaai pillai

Anubavangal: Oru thaai pillai: ஒரு தாய்க்கு பிறந்த பிள்ளைகள் ஒரே வீட்டில் வளர்ந்தவர்கள் கூட சேர்ந்து விளையாடியவர்கள் குத்துச்சண்டை போட்டவர்கள் தாய் தந்தையிடம் மாட்டி வைத்...

It is Everywhere

She was fed up of the fever. It had gone undiagnosed for more than a week, but tapered off after she swallowed some antibiotics.When it recurred three weeks later, she wondered if rather than suffer again, it wasn't better to just asphyxiate under the coverlet.

"Let's check out this doctor my friend recommended. He sees in the best hospital in the city," her husband recommended.

Reluctantly, she went to meet the doctor. He checked her, heard her case history and said, "Typhoid and Malaria can go undetected. We will also check for TB. All these can relapse if not treated properly. But we will anyway start treatment, IV this time."

When she found her fever under control, her optimism returned. And when the doctor's speculation was confirmed by the test reports, she felt her confidence in the doctor increasing. This was the third time in a month and a half she was getting all the tests repeated. But so long as she was healed, she didn't mind.

The last dose of IV over, she went with her mother and husband to meet the doctor. He checked her pulse, her BP, her chest and smiled. Then he got up and came up behind her. He touched the points under her earlobes. She couldn't see him now, but she could see her mother and husband, both seemed visibly shaken.

The doctor came around, looking obviously worried. "Swelling - normal during infection, but it seems too hard. Let's get it checked up."

Her mother looked panic stricken. Even without the doctor mentioning it, it looked like she was suspected of having cancer! When her mother opened her mouth to ask, he quickly dialled a number and asked for a doctor. As he waited on the line, he told the husband, "He is a leading oncologist." Then turning back to the phone, he asked, "What? He is not in town! Then get me the hematologist. No, I want this appointment right now!"

The three panicked. Not the C word! "You are lucky. He can see you tomorrow at 6."

"Is it that urgent?" she ventured boldly. From fire into frying pan! Her heart beat fast.

The doctor looked at her gravely. "The earlier the better, ma."

With a heavy heart, husband and wife went to meet the hematologist. The man frowned as he touched the points mentioned. The husband started to ask if it was serious when he was shushed. The doctor asked the wife for a series of symptoms. She had suffered those because of the fever, but how could she be sure now!

Seeing her doubtful, the doctor said, "Let's start with some tests and an ultrasound."

"But I got one done just last week."

The doctor quelled her with one look. "You can pay at the counter and then get the tests done. The moment you get the results... wait." He dialled a number and asked when the reports would be ready by. "Reach them to me directly." He looked at them and gave a date a week away. "Meet me then," he said and the couple noticed he put a star against her name.

The lady submitted herself to tests - which looked very similar to the one she had got done the week before - and then headed for ultra sound, the only new element.

The radiologist asked her for the reason and she said, in near tears, "I had typhoid and now... these nodes."

The man frowned. "This is swollen, no doubt. But that is normal during infection. Anyway, if the doctor has asked you to..." he shrugged. She looked at her husband with some hope.

They went a week later. The doctor looked up and said, "All clear."

"The nodes... do they swell during infection?"

"Yes, of course. Considering she suffered from typhoid and malaria, that was to be expected. But because your doctor suspected tumour, it was only right to eliminate the possibility completely."

A week of agony, uncertainty and futile expenditure. The doctor could have said this before, and waited for her to recover completely!

Little did the couple know that the two doctors received a bonus yet again for referring them!

Monday, August 22, 2011

It Begins Early

"Finally I got admission for my child in the school I was trying!" Father said proudly to friend.

"Oh really! How wonderful! LKG, right?" asked the friend.

Father nodded. "Paid Rs 1.25 lakh."

The friend gaped. "Oh!"

"They have said the moment they have a seat free, they will give my daughter a seat too, in class II."

"And how much for that?"

"Oh, the school is very reasonable. The same Rs. 1.25 lakh."

The friend gulped. His child was eight months old. If he had to try for admission in this school two years down the line, he wondered how much he would have to pay!

When the daughter got through too, the father was ecstatic.

A year later, the father came to the friend. "Do you remember a school your sister mentioned - where they have mixed class groups for normal and borderline children?"

The friend frowned. "Yes..." he said puzzled. "Someone looking for such a school?" He noticed the care lines on his friend's face. "Why are you looking so down?" he asked.

The man shook his head. "My daughter... She is not able to cope with the syllabus. She is too playful, it seems, and doesn't pay attention in class. The teacher suggested I consult a counselor. The counselor did a test on her and she said my daughter may be hyperactive."

The friend frowned. The symptoms sounded just like the Father had been when he was a student. "Why don't you get a second opinion?"

"I did," the father said, dejected. "But that lady gave an inconclusive report and the school punched holes in that."


"I don't want my daughter to struggle and feel she is a failure," the father said.

The friend felt that she had already been branded one. "So?"

"So, the school suggested I find another school for her. They had the best interest of the child in mind."

The friend inhaled deeply. Whose best interests, he wondered. The school would replace this child with another, and pocket another 1.25 lakh, if that was still the going rate. "So you want to go with their verdict?"

The father turned to him with a haunted look. "My wife is unable to cope with the complaints from school. We are so focused on her that we almost neglect our son."

The friend shook his head in sympathy. "I will find out," he assured the father.

The relief in the father's eyes when the second school accepted the child was so immense, that he didn't even mind paying Rs 50000 for getting admission in class 4 for his daughter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Are We Really Against Corruption?

Am I a cynic? I don't know. I should join in the applause to the way the average Indian Middle Class has risen up to the occasion and joined in the anti corruption movement. But somehow, when I see some of the people joining in... I am not sure we even understand what corruption is.

I believe doctors and school students are part of the campaign. And yet, hospitals, the entire medical system, the educational institutions - are they ready to clean up their acts before pointing fingers?

And then,  maybe 200 crores happens in the top levels. But the 100-200 happens at the bottom. It is people like the maids and the other with basic education that end up paying and taking money. Are they part of this movement? Are they aware? Will they want to be part of this movement since this is how they fulfill their aspirations?

Am I justifying bribes then? Or anti anti-corruption? Neither. I am just confused.

I feel it is not only about a change in the system, but also a change from within. Are we ready for this? Are we ready to wait patiently at signals, wait our turn in queues, abide by a law even if it is not in our favour, and not run after loopholes to our advantage? Are we ready not to go for the best hospital, best school, best seat, if it means paying money - whatever its name?

It is good, what Anna Hazare is doing. He is conscientious, and has high personal standards. His wants are  minimal and therefore, his transgressions- if any - would be unwitting. I have no doubt about that, or what he is fighting for.

But I believe that even while we must congregate in large numbers to show our support for the movement, we must also stand up in our own small worlds for causes that matter. We must also say - if this is right, I must and will do it. I am not sure I have that courage still, that I am not prevaricating a decision simply because it may not be convenient for me.

I hope that even while raising the cleanliness level in the political institutions, this movement cleans us up as people and makes us assess our priorities and change them for the greater good.

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