Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Autobiography of a Bronchitis patient

Parent Advisory: PG(Parental Guidance required) – This post contains many intentional spelling mistakes. Children must recognize them instead of learn the words out of context. Parents must help them do the same, but not by chucking the book into the dustbin and disappointing the children. Also, parents must remind the children that some authors are just eccentric and exaggerate certain events just for kicks.

All characters, places and things in this story are fictitious and any resemblance to reality are just a coincidence.

# - This sign denotes that...

For those that have a proclivity for philums: Convert the italicized phrase literally to Hindi

For those who watch philums occasionally: Check the index for the intended literal translation

For those who don't know what philums really are: Ask the fellow next to you what the italicized phrase means! You are missing an important part of the story!

Have you ever heard of those wonderful offers like “Pizza khao, Ibizza jao” that keep coming nowadays? They have become so commonplace that one starts to wonder why these food chains are so desperate to send their customers farther away from their homes. I would think serving pizza is enough to do that. Anyways, I recently got such an offer. But it's a very long storey. Let me tell you how it all happened....

I am a simple, modest, hard-working software engineer. I came home to Mumbai to spend a week of quality time with my family. I had no idea what the weak end would bring home. I reached comfortably, and merrily started spreading my things out. It was a relief to have my darling wife pick up things after me. Cheerfully, I spent the first day gossiping with my wife and children, playing with my poodle Girna(affectionate shortform given by the children for Giridhar Naagar), and eating my wife's delicious cuisine.

The next morning, I woke up with a grunt. Something was not right. But I could not figure out what. Had I forgotten to bring some important file home? Had I paid too much for my ticket? No, no. I had done everything very carefully this time. I had nothing to worry about. But why was I unable to stop worrying? Something must be wrong with me, I thought. Maybe I overate last night. The food was spicy. It was not a good idea to eat such spicy food immediately after a tiresome journey. Or maybe it is all psychological. Let the problem find its own solution.

I switched on the tube light in the living room, and sat down with a cup of coffee and the morning newspaper. There had been another stock market crash. I was so much safer not having ever invested in stocks, I said to myself. Or else I would have lost a fortune today! I glanced furtively at the mail that had come in. There was one black envelope with no address written on it, and I was hesitated to open it without it coming to the notice of other family members. I resumed my perusal of the day's hot news.

Breakfast time came, and my darling wife had made some special toast for us. It was some kind of bread stuffed with something. All I knew was that the something contained somethings chosen in such a manner as to decrease future heart problems for me. No, no. I'm not a heart patient or sugar patient, or anything like that. I am a healthy, fit software engineer. And it is all thanks to my darling wife and her wonderful cooking. I looked around the table and hummed, “We together together are#.”

We all munched the bread with overflowing zeal, the munches spaced out between sips of freshly prepared mausambi juice. As we finished and washed our hands, I settled with the newspaper again. My wife glanced at me, changed her expression from a nice big smile to a cold serious face, and turned away. She carried on clearing up the table. She is such a sweet girl. She doesn't like my spending too much time reading and wants me to spend more time with her. Yet, she never tells me off. She just feels a little upset and reconciles herself to my behaviour. She is very happy if I only notice the change and correct myself.

But today, I had not picked up the newspaper to read. I wanted some time to check the other family members' reaction to the black envelope. I failed to understand why even the kids did not point it out. I slowly put the newspaper aside, picked up the envelope and shook it in the air. My younger child looked at me as if I were teasing the air. Then my other child picked up another envelope on the table, and said “Look, pa! Grandmother has written a letter for me!” I gave him an encouraging smile, and put down the black envelope I was holding. Meanwhile, my wife brought one more round of coffee.

The kids turned on the television and started watching cartoons soon, and my wife went to the adjacent room to make a phone call to her club. The sweet girl wanted to cancel her social networking appointments for me. My attention came back to the black envelope. I could hold myself no longer. I must find out what this is all about, I thought, and I ripped it open. Out came a coupon. It was one of those offers. You know what happens when we receive these offers. We only care that we are getting a trip to somewhere, or a prize or discount of some sort. It becomes irrelevant to check who sent the offer, how they selected us for it, or what the fine print(also known as Terms and Conditions) is. We just want to avail of the offer before the last date. Surprisingly, this coupon did not have a last date. It only said that I had won a free trip to the Bed for a week. And to redeem the coupon, I had to make a visit to the doctor. And as we all say, Heart is that agrees not#.


By lunchtime, I had decided to ignore the offer. I could live without it, couldn't I? I had nothing short of what I wanted. Besides, I didn't want a trip to the Bed. I wanted to spend my time in the city, with my family.

Lunch was scrumptilicious. I though my wife had surpassed all of her previous experiments with this new dish she had made. However, my appetite had decreased a little, and I was unable to enjoy it as thoroughly as my greed demanded. We topped off lunch with a glass of lassi.

As the sun set, I noticed I was able to identify some muscles that I did not know existed. I thought, of course, the journey was quite a strain. But that didn't explain my sudden bouts of cough. Soon, my wife also pointed out that I was wheezing too. Faintly, in the background, I could hear the humming tune of a song from “My fight#.” Strong as I am mentally, I decided that I'd sleep early tonight and everything would be normal by morning.

The day was not over yet, though. The kids wanted to go to see a fair. Not wanting to disappoint them, I agreed. It's nice to be a dad. You get to remind yourself that you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, and you have a wife to reassure you that you always give everything your best shot. I did some warm water gargling and got some momentary relief from the irritating cough. Then, we set off for the fair.

There are some very valid reasons why housewives should learn driving. One is so that they can drive when the husband has ill health. It's marginally safer for the kids. When the husband is well, however, he's the safest driver around. Of course, in my wife's case, she's very fast at getting a glimpse of everything that's happening and about to happen, and the controls are second nature to her. So, contrary to how I regard female drivers in general, I place my wife on the same pedestal as me when it comes to safety. And, don't tell my wife I said this, but... car insurance does boost up a man's confidence in his wife's driving, even if just a little.

It was quite a big fair. Sights of the merry-go-round and giant wheel took me back to my childhood days. I wasn't really the kind who'd take risks that would put my life on the balance. Lucky for me, neither were my kids.

Dad, lets try to shoot the snowman!”, said my elder the child. The younger one wanted a doll that she saw at last year's fair, and couldn't buy coz the last piece had just got sold. I said that we would search for the doll, and took them to the shooting stall.

How much,” I asked.

Twenty rupees.”

That's very expensive. Last year, it was ten.”

Inflation, saab. We have to face it too.”

These shopkeepers have some way of breaking through me and making me thoroughly incapable of bargaining. I've seen my friends buy things at dirt cheap prices. But when it comes to me, I see no scope for decreasing any cost by even a single paisa, leave alone rupee. As I paid the stall-keeper, I noticed another stall where there were bangles of different sorts. I thought this was a good opportunity to surprise my wife, so I told her to stay in charge of the kids, and that I'd be back in a while.

The bangles stall had quite a variety. He had earrings and hairclips too. I saw a hairclip that sang the tune of “Vande Mataram” when it was pressed. I was wondering whether kids really cared for such stuff. I wouldn't have given it a second look as a kid, I thought. Then I found a nice glittery bangle that was not supposed to corrode on washing dishes and clothes. Not a nice signal to send to her. Discarded.

Finally, I found something I thought my wife might like. She loves to spend time with the kids, and show them strange things. So a holographic finger-ring was definitely her kind of stuff. Again, the “Idiot made, this heart of mine” syndrome hit me, and I bought it for the price he quoted.

As I walked back to the stall, I started feeling week, and noticed my breaths had been gadually getting shorter, and I was finding it harder and harder to breathe. I tried to take a deep breath to get a quick bout of oxygen, but it converted into a massive pain in my chest, and I fell to my knees holding on to it. My wife noticed me, and came to pick me up. She was about to call up the ambulance on my cell phone, when I managed to utter, “I'm alright. I just need to get home and lay down.

Such understanding children I have. They didn't make any complaints about the sudden change of plan, and the home retreat. They went on muttering between themselves as I tried not to exercise my vocal chords. We drove back home, had a quick dinner, which I could hardly even identify, and went to bed.

I was unable to sleep. The wheezing was much harder when I laid down, than when I was sitting. My wife offered a massage, but I knew it wouldn't help. Finally, I fell asleep in a sitting position, leaning against the wall against which the bed was propped up.

In my dream, I saw the black envelope again. I could feel a lot of pain in my head this time.


Bronchitis. A clear case of bronchitis. The breathlessness you faced last night must have been difficult, I understand. And, you have had bronchitis in the past too, if I understand correctly. In your childhood days, perhaps? I can make out. Don't worry. Take the medicine I give you. I will get relief in a couple of days. Continue the medicine until you finish the 5-day course. Oh, and do warm water gargling and steam inhalations 2-3 times a day. The infection is a little serious. However, you'll be back to normal in no time.”

I sat across the table, and all I could do is blink. Faintly worried about dietary restrictions, I asked the doctor.

Yes, yes. Avoid spicy food, and sour food. And also fried food.”

Mentally, I was knocking off favourite dishes that I couldn't have within the next week. My wife always has elaborate plans for stuffing me whenever I come home. This time her plans would need a make-over. My children would still get the goodies. I would have to watch them eat tasty food, as I chewed bland food.

I got home and updated my wife on the matter. Being the caring wife that she is, she told me not to worry, and that she would make tasty food that would suit my diet. I caressed her warmly and told her, “Our heart of you near.” She made a mental note of the times when I had to take medicine: all once after breakfast, one after lunch, and all once again after dinner. She also asked if it was possible to extend my leave. The expression on my face reminded her she was asking for something I could not give, so she forgot the thought and carried on with her cooking.

We all know how uninvited guests turn up, out of nowhere and create mayhem. We are obliged to serve them to the best of our abilities, no matter who they are. There is a saying, “Guests are gods”(Atithidevobhava). But at the middle of the night was a little hard for me to face, given that I was already feeling weak, and my darling wife was so deep in sleep that I didn't have the heart to wake her up. The unexpected guests were in my throat, irritating me to the core and waking me from my wonderful sweet dreams. I got up and rushed to the bathroom for some warm water gargling, continuously using a clothes bar as my support, as I appeased the uninvited guests of my throat.

After they had left, I sat down at the dining table, trying to take deep breaths. I knew more guests were expected, but they would not intimate me before popping up. I dragged myself to my bed, and laid down. No sooner had I closed my eyes to sleep, again I had to get up and cater to more guests. This formed a cycle of about 5 rounds, after which I was thoroughly exhausted and had a very dry throat.

I drank some water, and relaxed my back again, hoping to finally get some shut-eye.

*Unfinished work, but couldn't keep myself from posting it already!*

Index of philumi khichdis used

Heart is that agrees not – Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin

We together together are – Hum Saath Saath Hain

Our heart of you near – Hamara Dil Aapke Paas.

My fight – Meri Jung

Idiot made, this heart of mine – Nikamma Kiya, Is Dil Ne

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Heaven is a place on earth

I fell asleep in my previous post. I haven't woken up yet. Or, I don't know if I have.

Here are a few questions that occupy my mind right now: What is heaven? A place of complete bliss? When does one experience bliss? I do have the answers taking some space up there too. However, they are not your answers to the questions. They are mine.

One experiences complete bliss when one feels confident to face the consequences of one's actions. That presumes that one is able to weigh different aspects of any choice involving actions that could be taken, and zoom in to what one judges to be appropriate. Once the judgement is made, the results start to materialise. When one can look forward to evaluating the results without hesitation, one is happy.

It follows that, to achieve happiness, we must be able to exercise choice, or the illusion of it. Why illusion? Because there is no way of determining whether our actions are solely determined by our thoughts, or have been a result of various cirumstances that we have come to face, or even an environment in which we have been living from the start. When we feel that we don't have choice, not even a choice to skip exercising our choice(such as letting someone else choose something for us), we cannot be happy. On the other hand, if on every event that we face in life, we feel that we have chosen to decide or not to decide on something, and we have checked validity in that choice, we are happy.

So the happiest life one can live, is a series of actions and their consequences, each action something that we love, and each consequence rising from an exercise of volition. And this is achievable on earth.