Thursday, December 27, 2007

To hell and back - The 2004 Tsunami - Epilogue

Some people I met after the tsunami tell me how lucky I am that I was part of a historical event. Excuse me! I would really have liked something less unnerving than a tsunami to be part of history.

Seriously the whole experience was so scary that no one can ever wish for something like that.

And personally for me, the tsunami marked a turning point in my life. A few months after that I had an infection in my PD exit site. This infection marked the beginning of the end of Peritoneal Dialysis for me. The infection subsided with antibiotics but resurfaced a few weeks later. The exit site infection graduated into a tunnel infection. The PD tube was repositioned. Did not help. Eventually I had peritonitis and had to discontinue PD forever.

And with PD was gone my independence. My ability to travel meaningfully. My freedom from fluid restriction. My freedom to eat whatever I liked. Nocturnal Home HD is good but not as good as PD. PD was a completely unshackled life. NHHD is like having one toe chained!

Was all this due to the tsunami? No one knows. They argue saying the infection started 3 months after the tsunami. So, it cannot be. I don't know why it happened then.

Globally too, odd weather has been observed after the tsunami. It snowed in the Middle East. There were floods in Rajasthan's deserts.

I have no idea if all this related. Maybe its all due to global warming. Is it time for us to become really serious about the issue? Is our existence at stake?

Do we need more than a Nobel for Gore and Pachauri? Do we need some more action at the grassroots?

The big countries discard theories suggesting that we're nearing doomsday. The problem is that these things cannot be proven. But don't we see a pattern emerging?

The stakes are too high for us to ignore the warnings.

A few weeks after we got back, we had a small party at my house. We played TT, laughed and joked about the whole thing.

From left sitting on the couch - me, Venkateshwar, Pushkar and M V Krishna; Pavan on the floor

I guess there was a bond the five of us had formed for life. We might go our own ways through life's twists and turns but we will never forget those hours we spent together on the beach of Mahabalipuram.

To hell and back - The 2004 Tsunami Part 3

It looked like the water was less violent by then. Everyone except me went back to the room to try and salvage what was left.

All this while, we were thinking that this was something very local, something confined to this resort, something that was at the most confined to a kilometer around where we were.

We had no inkling that this was one of the worst natural disasters to have hit mankind.

The resort staff was in total disarray. People were shocked. No one knew what had happened. The gushes of water and the receding continued but with a much lesser force. We went to the resort owner's cottage and kept our stuff on the 1st floor and went and sat on the terrace unsure of what would happen next.

After a while, Pushkar and Venkateshwar went down to try and assess the situation and decide on what to do next.

They came back after a while and told us that our taxi driver had parked the car on a road that was high enough for the water to reach. We decided that we would go to the car and head back to Chennai.

In the meantime, we slowly learned that similar incidents had happened in Chennai too but the main city was safe.

We went down and took our stuff and walked towards the exit of the resort. To do this we had to actually almost swim across a large pool of water that had collected between the road and our side of the resort.

We finally got into the car and started out. We were advised by the locals to take the old Mahabalipuram road since parts of the new one were inundated.

On the way we saw a lot of panicky people.

We reached the city of Chennai in a few hours. On the way we called our folks at home and told them we were safe. We drove straight to Apollo Hospital where there were no signs of anyone knowing what had just happened. A couple of relatives came there. We got first aid at the casualty ward, had some food at a restaurant and then went to a relative's house. There, during the course of the day, through the television news reports I came to know the magnitude of the damage that had been caused in so many places.

I took the evening flight to Hyderabad exactly a day after I started out. Those 24 hours were probably the most eventful I would ever have had.


To hell and back - The 2004 Tsunami Part 2

We woke in the morning at around 7. We stepped out of our rooms and were chatting about nothing in particular. We then decided to have a quick breakfast and get ready, sit on the beach for some time and then head out.
The lull before the storm - a picture of the sea about half an hour before it rose

Unknown to us, the tsunami had struck Indonesia by then and wrecked havoc in many areas. Thousands had already died and many times that number were homeless.

We obviously did not realize that the mother of destruction was heading our way. Blissfully we went about our morning ablutions excited about the day ahead.

I ordered an Idli for myself, finished my Peritoneal Dialysis exchange and was watching TV. MVK came down and was fiddling with the camera. After a while, he went to his room to get ready. Pushkar went to take a shower.

Suddenly, water came into the room from under the door. I did not know what to make of it. I just shouted out to Pushkar. The first gush was barely a centimeter deep. The water went back as fast as it came in, only to be followed by repeated gushes, each bigger then the earlier one.

By then Pushkar came out, wrapped in a towel and we were both wondering what the heck was happening.

Thoughts crossed my confused mind trying to make sense of the situation. I had heard the previous day that this was a full moon day and was wondering if the tide was a little stronger than usual due to which the water had come this far. I was puzzled why no one at the resort had warned us about this. I thought this might be a regular occurrence and the resort management did something stupid by not telling us.

Pushkar made his way towards the door. By then we were both neck deep in water. The room door was closed. The pattern of the water continued. Huge gushes of water inward and then a surge outward. The pressure of the water was intense.

We still had no idea of what was happening.

Pushkar forced the door open and was petrified with what he saw. As he would describe it to me later, he saw a huge wall of water coming towards us.

He slowly made his way out of the room. There was a window next to the door that had a concrete cover. He shouted out to me to get the hell out of there. I slowly walked towards the door. It was quite difficult. The inward gush of water forced me backwards. The outward gush took me towards the door but shut the door too. I glanced to my side and noticed the television set, refrigerator and cots bobbing up and down in the water.

Was this it, I wondered. The last way I wanted to die was by drowning. Random thoughts crossed my mind. The risk of infection of my exit site (the point in my stomach that had the dialysis tube going in), the dirty water I had ingested, everything was scary.

The next time the water came in, the door opened and before it could close with the outward gush, I put my left leg in between to prevent the door from closing. I then forced myself through the doorway and managed to get out of the room. Pavan and Pushkar helped me and pulled me out. Slowly we made our way to a higher piece of land and caught our breath. In the next few minutes Krishna and Venkateshwar also came there.

I learnt later that Venkateshwar was outside the room when the water came towards us for the first time and instinctively darted away from the water. The surprising thing is he did not even get wet!

Pavan and Krishna had had a harrowing time too.

Part 3

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

To hell and back - The 2004 Tsunami Part 1

I got an email from M V Krishna this morning addressed to Pavan, Pushkar, Venkateshwar and me wishing us a happy 3rd anniversary. It struck me instantly that today was December 26th, exactly 3 years after the tsunami of 2004 in which the five of us were caught and escaped miraculously.

The email brought back memories of that day and the days preceding it.

It was nearing December end - a time when there is not much work happening in office because most of our clients are off for their annual Christmas break. Some of us wanted to go to some place for a few days and chill.

Unfortunately, we had not planned in advance and because of that many places like Goa were ruled out. Travel bookings were also increasingly difficult. Accommodation was even more difficult to get.

Finally, an uncle in Chennai managed to get us 3 cottages at a resort in Mahabalipuram for the 25th, 26th and 27th nights. 6 of us - Pavan, Pushkar, Venkateshwar, M V Krishna, Srikanth and I were supposed to reach on the 26th night and Uma and her kids were to reach the following day.

Unfortunately Srikanth met with an accident on the 25th morning and had to drop out at the last minute.

The rest of us set out and reached Chennai late in the evening. We took a taxi and headed out towards Mahabalipuram. We toook the picturesque new Mahabalipuram road which ran parallel to the East Coast of the country. Even in the night the sea was beautiful. The strong waves, the pollution free atmosphere and the great weather had all our spirits up and we were looking forward to the great time we were going to have.

I remember making a comment. I told the other guys that however much fun we would have, we would tell Srikanth that he was lucky he did not come because we did not have any fun at all so that he would not feel bad at missing the trip.

I did not realize at that time how prophetic my words would turn out to be.

We reached at around 9 in the night I think. We checked in to our rooms. To our delight, we were given rooms right on the beach. There was sand under our feet as we stepped out of our room. We freshened up and went to the open air restaurant. We finished dinner and then went to relax at the beach.

There was a row of reclining chairs which we sat on and were laughing and joking for about an hour. We planned for the next day. We would come back to the beach the next morning after getting ready, spend some time there and then go over to the Mahabalipuram city and do some sight seeing. I had learnt about the Shore Temple and the Pandav Rathas during my school days and was looking forward to seeing them.

We then went over to a table tennis table and played for some time. It was probably around 2:30 in the night. We were all quite tired by then. We decided to call it a day and went back to our cottages and tried to get some sleep. Pushkar and I were in one cottage and Pavan, Venkateshwar and MVK were in the neighbouring cottage.

The tiring day and the fun and games we had just had were taking its toll. Sleep was our master in a matter of few minutes.

Unknown to us, a few thousand kilometers away, a few thousand meters under the sea, nature was planning her next revenge against mankind for taking her for granted. Two pieces of earth slid past each other unleashing great power from within. This caused the displacement of a mind numbingly large amount of water which started making its way to land at a huge velocity, with a huge amount of force.

Part 2

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I like IndiJoes despite...

... having to wait for about an hour to be seated at the lunch buffet
... having hardly any vegetarian dishes at the buffet
... the ladies, at the table we were supposed to be given, taking half an hour after the bill was presented to get up
... the unpleasant sizzler odor filling the entire restaurant

Monday, December 24, 2007

Baba Ramdev and legions of his fans

A silent revolution is sweeping the country these days. Scores of people in city after city are rising at 5 a.m. to attend the 'Yog shivirs' of Baba Ramdev.

What exactly is different about this swami? Why is he so popular?

People swear by his pranayams, other yogasanas and his herbal and ayurvedic medicines.

A lot of people have apparently benefited from his remedies. And he mostly recommends only pranayama - a simple, effective and free therapy that promises to cure problems from cough and hair fall to cancer and hepatitis.

How genuine are these claims?

In his daily television program on Astha, we see a large number of people testifying that they've been cured of a variety of illnesses only by Pranayama.

Swami Ramdev himself claims that lakhs of people have been cured and there is a book that has chronicled many of these instances with laboratory reports before and after practicing pranayama.

The swami is strongly opposed to multinationals entering the country and is dead against junk food ('burger yaani barbaadi ka ghar') and sodas ('thanda matlab toilet cleaner').

My grandmother is a huge fan of the baba. She does not miss watching the program every single day. She participates in any discussion on the baba and vehemently supports him. She gushes with appreciation for his oratory and simplicity. Being a chronic diabetic however, I often wonder why she does not try the baba's solutions for diabetes!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Cola flavor

I've often wondered about the cola flavor.

I always thought that the cola flavor was not based on any natural flavor and used to pay glowing tributes to whoever invented it. I kept saying that the inventor of the flavor really deserved appreciation because he invented something that beat every natural flavor when it came to soda based drinks. Worldwide, colas top the list when it comes to consumption of sodas.

Unfortunately, that was not accurate.

Not many people know that the cola flavor comes from cola nuts, a species of trees that grow in the rainforests of Africa. I myself realized it when I googled this.

I am really a cola guy and love guzzling down bottle after bottle, the harmful effects notwithstanding.

For the record, Thums Up is my favorite. I find Pepsi too sweet and Coke too 'mediciny'!

Xylocaine Anesthetic - an oxymoron

Most people on dialysis use Xylocaine which is supposed to be an anesthetic before cannulation.

This is because the needles used for dialysis can be quite painful. So, before putting the needles, a small amount of Xylocaine is injected into the site where the needles need to be put.

So far, so good. The problem is that the Xylocaine itself is quite painful! Granted that it reduces the pain that would have otherwise been there if Xylocaine was not used. But why would something that is supposed to reduce the pain cause pain itself?

I read somewhere that ultrasound waves are being tried with some success for local anesthesia. I wonder how that research is going. Let's hope we see some good results soon.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Religious fundamentalism

I don't have anything much to add to this topic after all the discussions, opinions and debates we have heard in different media. But I read something interesting this morning in the newspaper.

Sania Mirza, the tennis player has come under fire from the Muslim religious heads because she entered a mosque in jeans and a T shirt. They compared her to Taslima Nasreen and said that their likes are doing these kinds of things intentionally to insult Islam. This is preposterous.

I don't want to argue on whether that was wrong or right but let's assume what she did was wrong. Do you really think she would do it to insult Islam? Why on earth would she do that?

And even more preposterous is this: A Hindu organization from some other state (I forget which) has come out in defense of Sania! What has this incident got to do with the Hindu organisation?

We have fundamentalists in all religions. People who just want to give a religious hue to everything. Without thinking. Without realizing what the consequences may be. What are they trying to achieve?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Looking good

I have realized over a period of time that looks are important. Good looking people generally have a better deal in life.

People are more likely to listen to what good looking people have to say. In a job interview, a good looker is more likely to get the job.

I have also seen some newspaper reports of research that proves this.

All this, I believe is sub conscious. Unfortunately. If it was being consciously done (of course, there are cases where it is being consciously done, but that is not what I am referring to), it is relatively easier to correct. But if it is not being done intentionally, the individual being biased does not even know he/she is doing it.

And this has nothing to do with gender related attraction. A (straight) man is as likely to be biased towards a man as a woman.

I have myself experienced this many times. Many, in my office are biased towards better looking people at different levels.

I myself might have exhibited this trait some times. Again I'm not consciously aware of this but it is possible.

The mind, as I said before is amazing in many ways!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's in a name?

I always thought my name was easy to pronounce.

Alas! I was wrong. I never realized how many different ways people could find to pronounce my name.

It started in Class 5 in school where teachers would call me Kamaal. It so happened that in the batch before mine, there was another guy who was called Kamaal even though he spelt his name Kamal.

Things became worse at work. But only with people from the US.

Margie called me Kemaal. For Kevin Shea, its Kaamal.

Danny Kao from Apple calls me Camel. Shucks! Can't complain though!

I often think that with a name as simple as mine, you get so many variations, what must be happening to someone with a name like Namboodiripad?

Noodles with tadka!

We've got a Rajasthani cook these days.

She's very good at traditional stuff. She makes very good gatte ki sabzi, dal bati, kadhi etc. One day my mother asked her if she knew other stuff. She said she knew Chinese dishes like noodles, fried rice and sweet and sour vegetables.

So, we thought let's have a change and asked her to make that for dinner.

When we sat down for dinner, we realized to our horror that she made noodles with a tadka! The fried rice had haldi and kaju!

We learnt our lesson that day. Stick to the tried and tested with this lady!

Sultan Sherbet at Sahib Sindh Sultan

Sahib Sindh Sultan is a restaurant belonging to the BJN group at City Center on Banjara Hills Road No. 1.

I went there a few days back. Getting a reservation is really difficult unless you go at an odd time. I went there with my brother on a Sunday at 12:15 in the afternoon.

The food is really great but what took the cake was the Sultan Sherbet.

It is a drink made of saffron and sandlewood with a hint of lime. Never before have I had a drink with these flavors. I am generally a mocktail guy and love trying out drinks with different ingredients. But I've really never had anything like this.

The drink is really refreshing. Each sip leaves you energized. The taste is so purifying that you feel an aura of spiritualism enveloping your senses.

Try it. You will love it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

When lightning strikes

I have been thinking about Pavan Joshi these days.

Pavan's story has been very similar to mine. He's probably around 8 years younger than me. Struck with kidney disease at a young age. Both of us were in our early twenties when our kidneys shut down. Both have had a failed transplant. Both then switched to PD after the transplant. Pavan of course, has just started PD while I did about 8 years back.

When I hear his story, its deja vu for me. Except that a lot more stuff has happened since I started PD. The tsunami, the infections and the switch to home hemo.

When such a thing happens to you at such a young age, it can be very difficult to deal with. Your whole life can change in a way that nobody can ever imagine. Only people who actually go through this themselves can ever realize the whole gamut of issues a person in this position has to go through.

Your plans for life, your dreams, nothing is now the same. Just when you were about to start your life, a cruel twist in the story ruins everything.

There's another guy I know whose kidneys packed off at a young age. Chaitanya. He used to dialyze in KIMS too (just like Pavan and me). But he was lucky enough for his transplant to be successful. Really hope it lasts forever.

But for guys like Pavan and me who have to live continuously with the compulsion of dialysis, life is very, very different from the lives of people at that age.

Everything you do, everything you think, your whole life is dictated by your dialysis. You have to factor this in in everything. Fortunately, we are seeing improvements in treatment outcomes and the quality of life especially for those who do PD and home hemo. But there's no denying that you have to make compromises.

And it is very important to have a positive mindset. I try to be as cheerful as possible. I try not to think of the problems I have. This really helps. And I believe that it helps you feel better too. Somehow, the mind controls the body. If you feel depressed, even physically you feel worse.

Working full time is an important piece of my overall well being. It helps me focus on different things rather than worry about my health all the time.

But there are times when I wonder how life would have been had this problem not been there. The things I would have done had I a normal life. Unfettered, unchained, free. It would really have been very different.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Medical Profession

The Medical Profession is different.

You can afford to cheat, lie, be unscrupulous, care a fuck in every other profession but not in the medical profession. Yet, ever so often I come across people in this profession who do just that.

You might argue that for the individual, its like his profession and he (to use a random gender) does not see it as being 'different'. He is in it to earn his living. Why should he see it as any different?

The point is, what is at stake here? The health of people, for God's sake! The lives of people.

Inspite of knowing this, people do things which are downright unacceptable. Things which smack of cruelty and show their utter disregard for the patient's well being.

Another problem I have is with their egos. This will prevent them from listening to sense. The very fact that this has come from another source (another doctor, the internet, your own common sense) will make them believe that it is crap.

I'm not saying that everyone in the profession is like this. But many are.

They will do anything for their financial benefit. They might take a cut from the medical companies for things they prescribe or even recommend an inferior drug/equipment because they get a better commission.

And they will do all this without a tinge of guilt.

Do these people even realize what patients go through?

Stick two thick needles in your fucking arms every night and lie there with pain every now and then. Wake early morning waiting for dialysis to complete. Go through the rest of the day groggy because you haven't had a good night's sleep. All this to be able to eat and drink what you want.

I'm just referring to my dialysis regimen. But I'm sure others with kidney disease have similar problems and so do others with other chronic problems.

It really makes my blood boil the way some of these people in this profession treat patients. They don't understand what they are going through. And they are in the best position to understand them. If anything they should be more caring and understanding than the rest of the population.

I know of people who get angry, are condescending and downright mean towards some patients. They really never realize what patients go through.

That is why I'm trying to get as much control over my dialysis as possible. I want to be as less dependent on these bastards as I can.

I've already started cannulating on my own. Hope to take on more soon.