Saturday, December 22, 2012

This is absolutely crazy!

Yesterday, my dad's close friend's son came to meet him. After talking about different things, the topic moved to me. He mentioned to my dad about my pic appearing in a recent newspaper in a story about NephroPlus. He then said, "But he started, right?" and gestured with his thumb to the mouth.

My dad did not understand. "What do you mean?", he asked.

He clarified, "He started drinking, right?"

My dad said, "No way!"

"Oh, then you don't know."

"Who told you?"

"I myself saw him."

"When, where?"

"During last year's HPS reunion, he drank and was totally out!"

My dad had two choices. One was to blast the guy for spreading false rumors about me and the second was to ignore the poor guy as he was going through some personal issues. My dad did the latter. Wisely, I would say!

For sure, liquor has never made me "out" but this rumor certainly did!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gujarat Diary

The Modi juggernaut

I landed in Amdavad's Sardar Vallabhai Patel Airport expecting to be greeted with a blitzkrieg of election related publicity, large hoardings, huge rallies and more. I was surprised to find hardly any sign that elections were on. The only thing we saw were two small rallies taken out by BJP supporters. Modi, they say is all set for a third term. This time he is expected to get a bigger majority than last time which will put him firmly at the forefront of the BJP campaign for the 2014 general elections.

Though this will alienate a lot of voters and allies, I don't see how the BJP is going to avoid projecting him as their Prime Ministerial candidate. Ever since it lost power, the BJP has lost its way completely. Without a clear agenda, with no leaders of the stature of Vajpayee, complete confusion on important issues and the worst of them all, corruption among many top leaders, the party with a difference is no longer very different from the GOP of India politics. As I said before, Narendra Modi is at once the BJP's biggest blessing and its biggest curse!

Jalebi FafdaOshwal

We landed at around 9 in the morning. We were all hungry. Suggestions of idli and dosa were quickly shot down. We were in Gujarat after all! We should do a typical Gujarati breakfast was the general consensus. We called an acquaintance who recommended Oshwal. We reached the shabby looking place in about half an hour and took a table. We ordered Jalebi and Fafda. The food was priced quite high. Rs. 50 for four jalebis and Rs. 60 for a plate of fafda.

When the food came, we were delighted. The jalebis were some of the best I've had - thin, crisp and just the right degree of sweetness. The fafdas were served with grated raw papaya, fried chillis and kadhi - a first! Very delicious. We ordered more! We also ordered Methi na gota and Mag ni daal na bhajiya, both very well made, crisp exteriors and soft within. One thing that struck me was that every single thing we had that was deep fried! Welcome to Gujarat!

It was a great start to our short trip.

Chalo Bulava Aaya Hai...

It is said that no one can go to Shatrunjay without a call from Dada Adishwar! I experienced this first hand. Shatrunjay is the most sacred teerth for Jains. Many devout Jains in Gujarat make it a point to visit this teerth at least once a year. We, in the South are less fortunate and our visits are much less frequent. Before this trip, I had visited this great teerth a total of two times. Pathetic! This year, however, from the past couple of months, I suddenly had this strong urge to go there. I have no clue why. I don't know what triggered it. I started looking at options for flights. I checked if it was possible to go on one day and come back the next day so that I don't have to miss my dialysis. I did not want to miss more than one session. It wasn't looking possible.

Then, believe it or not, on my brother Prasan's birthday, his wife, Anjali surprised him with tickets to Amdavad to go to Palitana (the town around the Shatrunjay)! Prasan and his son Naman were to go. Prasan called me and asked my parents and me to join him. I hesitated for a bit. I would miss two dialysis sessions. But I felt it all falling in place. I agreed to go!

Aavyo Dadane Darbaar....

Our yatra went off really well. We got started around 7 in the morning. We reached up in about two and half hours. The number of pilgrims was extraordinarily high that day. We completed our pooja and the five chaityavandans and were back down by around 1:30 in the afternoon.

There were some people who were doing the chauvihar chhat with seven yatras - a feat that is beyond me. How can someone stay without food and water for two days and actually climb the mountain seven times during those two days. It is said that such people achieve liberation within three bhavs. An apt reward for a superhuman endeavor!

The next morning, I went off alone to the Jay Taleti and spend some moments of quiet solitude. There was considerable rush at that time as well but the peace in the early morning hours is unimaginable.

Sabarmati Ashram

We returned to Amdavad that day. We had a few hours to kill before it was time to get to the airport. My brother suggested we go to see the Sabarmati Ashram - the place were the Father of the Nation stayed for twelve years after returning from South Africa. The rest of us were not terribly excited by the idea but agreed nevertheless. I expected us to be the only people there but was surprised to see many people visiting the ashram. It was a motley crowd - some Germans, some Indian youngsters clad in shorts, some very typical Gujju families. It was a very peaceful place, well maintained, not the typical, picture perfect lawns but more natural greenery.

We saw the main ashram and then the modest house where Gandhiji actually stayed - the room he sat and spun the charkha, the kitchen, where he met people etc. The ashram led to the Sabarmati river which probably made for a very peaceful setting before industrialization led to the river being polluted heavily by factories. The ashram has still retained its charm oblivious to the dramatic changes that have taken place just outside its hallowed precincts.

Gordhan Thaal

Just before the Ashram, we went for lunch to Gordhan Thaal, Amdavad's famous thaali restaurant. They serve an amazingly delicious and elaborate thaali with very well made dishes, authentic Gujarati recipes in a very good ambience. My favorite item on that day's menu was the Rajbhog which was a saffron colored shrikhand. The other tasty items were the bajra rotla, the kadhi, the dal and the samosa. They have everything available in the Jain variants as well.

They don't serve any soft drinks but the helpful manager conceded to a request from my nephew Naman for a cola which he arranged from the neighboring kirana store! We were quite surprised by the price of the thali. Given the elaborate nature of the meal, we expected it to be in the Rs. 350 - Rs. 400 range. It turned out to be only Rs. 220. A steal by any standards!

It was a perfect meal to end our trip!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Home dialyzors - don't let time bring complacence

It was about four years since I had started PD. My life was bliss. I was working full time, travelling with ease, gulping fluid like crazy, eating what I chose to. PD was working so well for me. I hadn't a care in the world.

I remember attending the Indian Society for Peritoneal Dialysis Conference that was being held in Hyderabad. Harish Natarajan, who headed Baxter India's Renal Division was a good friend. He managed to get me a pass to attend the conference. In the courtyard of the venue, Harish and I stood along with a few other executives of Baxter. Harish said to me in now what seems so ominous, "As you get more and more comfortable with PD, you tend to get a little complacent. Try not to do that. Be meticulous about sterile procedures and don't take any chances!"

He was so right. I had become complacent. I was taking chances. I would do two of my four exchanges at work. I did not even - hold your breath - wash my hands before those exchanges! It was a sure recipe for disaster.

Yes, the tsunami struck. Yes, I possibly got some infection. But I cannot deny that my taking chances with the sterile procedures most likely did contribute to my eventual loss of ability to do PD.

It happens with all. As you get more and more comfortable with the therapy, you start taking chances. This can prove to be disastrous. The therapy that gave me my life back, the therapy I loved so much, the therapy that gave me so much freedom was lost to me forever.

I regret it so much. Life would have been so much better with PD.

Those on home therapies always run this risk. Of complacence. On home hemo too, you run the risk of taking things for granted. My fistula got infected recently. I have tightened the screws after that episode. No chances at all.

Home dialysis gives us dialysis patients a shot at a normal life. The freedom is too precious to lose. We must never let anything under our control take it away from us.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Act firmly against bullying

I was shocked when I read a friend's post on Facebook about a seventeen year old guy in the US state of Michigan who killed himself because of excessive bullying by his school mates. Bullying other people just because they're different in some way and don't fit into your narrow idea of 'normal' is truly abhorrent.

The whole issue lies in what people believe is 'normal'. Some whites believe people of any other color are abnormal. Brown people believe whites are abnormal. Some straight people believe gays are abnormal. Some Indians believe people from the North-Eastern part of India are abnormal. Some North Indians feel South Indians are abnormal. It goes on and on. Anything different is considered abnormal. This myopic view that many of us take must really change.

It is really sad that bullying exists in almost all schools and colleges. It is considered 'cool' to bully and it almost becomes a symbol of strength. The trauma that the target undergoes is too horrific to even be imagined. Your entire sense of self-worth takes a hit and the impact is often felt life-long. The mental torture that the victim undergoes leaves emotional scars that may take decades to heal and may actually never heal. These scars manifest in unimaginable ways and affect the individual's entire life, the relationships he or she has, the way he or she parents and deals with the normal pressures of everyday life.

Due to the extremely serious nature of the consequences, this kind of behavior must be considered deviant with some very strict laws and rules in schools to punish people who indulge in this. Exemplary punishments must be handed out to the guilty so that no student ever even remotely considers doing this again. Schools that do not do this must be punished severely by the law so that they take this important issue seriously.

Parents must watch out for their kids. They must talk about the possibility of being bullied and create an environment where they should be free to talk about the problems they're having in school. Without any outlets for their frustrations, kids often resort to what Josh Pacheco did in the story above and you really don't want that to happen.