List of published short stories/prose

  1. The Waiting Uteruses by Nymphs Publications, London

2. How I Describe Hear Sounds to my Deaf Brother by Oklahoma University’s Annual Medicine themed art journal – Blood and Thunder

3. Chicken Ghee Roast by International Human Rights Arts Festival (IHRAF)- New York, anthology themed on domestic violence

4. Blood and the Vermillion by Active Muse

5. List of Medical Conditions that don’t exist but should by Oklahoma University’s Annual Medicine themed art journal – Blood and Thunder

My ‘anklet’ story!

In my convent school, I was a lil 🌟 to an extent of having young junior fans👧🏻 who used to cut out the my press article-photographs published right after a Youth Festival. I was recognized not for my ‘Veena’ but as a solo classical dancer. I was vigorously trained for 9 years in 4 Indian classical dance forms – Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and 2 traditional dance forms of Kerala state – ‘Keralanatanam’ & ‘Ottanthullal’. The last one needed a lot of stamina as it was a dance (continuous jumping up and down) plus poetic performance. Although the performance was solo, we used to have an ensemble percussion cast. It wasn’t a hobby/fun thing. I mean I was happy when I dance but the teachers were focused on your youth festival achievements.

After 11th grade I quit dancing because I could not dedicate a lot of time and energy as I was preparing for entrance exams to get into a Med school. My 2 pairs of anklets are kept as a souvenir from those wonderful years.

I never had a photograph to showcase and all I had was 50 something certificates & 🏆. My first stage dance recital was when I was about 6-7 years old (4rth grade)👶🏻, and all the photographs caught mold. I badly wanted atleast one picture and luckily I found negatives. My Uncle said there are no studios out there right now who converts a negative to a color photograph. Yesterday, I asked my mom to find out and fortunately got it converted. Here they are!

They are really really special ✨💫 It’s not like I never danced after that. I did, but not the proper orchestrated ones. When I am happy – for myself-in a closed room or (if I am really comfortable and I am very sure they are not watching)even in front of my room mates. Free style – like no one is watching – for myself – to my favorite songs – classical/Bollywood/pop/bhajan- You know, like Elle Woods say “excercise produces endorphins and endorphins make people happy” !

One Cautery, my Varanasi, a Story of an above knee amputation and 5 senses

Prologue

The surgeon kept cutting the muscles with the cautery. Muscles contracted. Suddenly one nerve jumped out. Cutest scenes of Operating room. When you touch a nerve with the cautery, the nerve stands out like a cartoon frog which has popping curious eyeballs. Although this scene was cute, the scenario was serious. Above knee amputation. A 60-year-old male who is a chronic alcoholic and chronic smoker with long-standing peripheral vascular disease of the right leg. We had done a below-knee amputation, a couple of weeks ago. It was expected to be done at around 6.30 pm, which got delayed and we finally scrubbed in at around 8.30 pm. Procedure again got delayed because the spinal anesthesia for some reason took time more than it usually requires. By 9.30 we started the amputation. 11 pm we closed the skin. Push- pulling the Gigli saw around the tibia and fibula was totally a novel and interesting experience for me. To top it all, I received many compliments for my filing and skin suturing.

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ODOUR

I was getting a deja vu when I was assisting this above knee amputation. The odor of burning flesh. The only one place in the whole wide world can give me this deja vu – It’s my Benares! Varanasi/Benares/Kashi is the most ancient living city in the world. According to Hindu mythology, The King Harishchandra – who was renowned for his grace and ‘sticking to truth’ had to work as a cremator due to the circumstances. The place even now exists in Kashi- currently known as Harishchandra Ghat . In 2011, on my very first visit to Kashi, I paid a visit to the famous temple of Kashi Vishwanath. I sat on the steps of the Harishchandra Ghat. I could never forget the moment. It was a regular day early summer in India. Corpse kept on coming, one after the other. Some came with loud cries, some with ‘Ramnaam Satya Hein’, some came from afar,some from the premises of the temple, some came in ‘economy’ chariots, some came on arms of 4 people, some were stinking, some came with loads of burning scented agarbathis  on either of its sides. But, all covered in white clothes – then ?…. all naked bodies. As I mentioned it was a regular day, crowded and hectic (for the cremator)! He transferred the naked bodies from the relatives to the place which is arranged symmetrically by the logs. Then follows burning the logs. A half-burned/charred body is thrown into the Ganges. Half ate by the fire and the half by aquatic creatures. Locals say anatomy dissection lab assistants swim and take the body as it reaches a bit far from the banks – interesting isn’t it? There is an electric crematorium as well. Once I woke up early in the morning to watch this most beautiful sunrise in the world – the sun rising from the banks of Ganges –  I could sense the odor which I had never sensed in my life- and which I can never forget in my life. That was the smell of burning flesh. The odor which I described in the prologue.

HEARING :

The sounds of the bells ringing from the temple – the bells are made up with a mixture of 5 metals . They say, even if the world ends – these sounds prevail in this universe! This was told to me by a yogi whom I met in one of my expeditions to a cave situated in a mountain (Southern part of India). They Reverberated inside the temple walls….inside out actually!

SIGHT

What I saw was the scattered skulls, the aghoris chanting  panchakshari, the breathtakingly beautiful Ganges joining the horizons far away from the riverbank, the routine puja of the mighty Ganges called as the Ganga Aarti  – beautiful ghee lamps moving in a clockwise order – dancing magnificent flames in the air – marigold and jasmine everywhere – hours long- loud chanting amidst the echoes of the ringing 5- metal bells,  visitors/tourists/national-geographic professional photographers watching and catching this lifetime experience in their cameras.  I saw everything. I was, perhaps blessed! It’s one of the most spectacular events, you need to be lucky to experience the feeling of Benares.

TASTE: Benarasi paan is loved, always!

TOUCH

Dying in Benares is said to be the best. Why? Rational reason refers to Hindu mythology again. Lord Shiva chants  ‘Rama Rama’ in the ears of the one who is dying so that he will have his way easier to cross the river vaitarana – which is apparently a difficult path for the souls to cross. When you die in Varanasi you will never have to reborn. One attains moksha . There are hotels where one can stay until they die. Every year lots and lots of people with terminal illnesses, old ages come happily (?) to these hotels and stay there till they die. Again, Interesting isn’t it? I played with the sand pellets after taking a holy dip – on the other side of the ghats. A splendid mixture of purple and red colors aligned in the sky!

The Ganges – The river who only took out the sin and blessed in return – wish I was as pure as you! The one who received a newborn baby and years later she had to painfully receive his ashes – that’s the story of the legendary archer – Karna. In one of the holy texts of Hindu religion, they say ‘Jale Vishnu sthale Vishnu vishnurakashamuchyate sthavaram jangamam vishnu sarvam vishnu Mayam Jagad’. Which means basically Lord vishnu is there everywhere…… in the land, the water, and the sky….for those who believe!

Night ICU Duty : A story of 12 hours : Indian chapter

7.50 PM : Internal Medicine Resident (PGY2) in charge of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) handovers a note.

1 Say Hello to the intern ( and That’s so sweet )

2 Take down their Phone Number

3 Send blood for Artierial Blood Gas Analysis by 4 am (Bed No: 2,6,7,8,9)

4 Send Blood for Liver Function Test ,Renal Function Test and Complete Blood Count, for all the patients.

5 Blood culture for Bed No : 11

6 Stool Routine for Bed No: 8

7 Femoral catheter tip culture of Bed number 9.

I Shifted Bed No. 2 for Magnetic Resonance Imaging ( MRI) Brain , handover given by the day ICU intern. I injected the dye ( I had never done that before ). MRI took around 20 minutes.

9 PM : Encephalopathy patient is yelling and is trying to pull off the clothes tied to his limbs to the bed.

(Dramatic events follows !

“ Nurse, Blade Kodi..bega kodi… “ ( Nurse, pass me the blade….give fast)

“Nurse, or else give me 1 rupee, let me go and buy a blade and cut this stupid thing off”

“Doctor – Nimage chooru budhiyilla ?” ( Doctor, don’t you have a brain? )

“I want to leave this huanted place”)

A women opened the door a bit and peeped in. Oh! It’s for Bed 12 : She has been there in the ICU for a while. Around 6 months. Her mother has come to feed her dinner.

I sat on the chair for a while, reading “The Namesake”. It was an year ago I had visited Harvard, Boston ! The words made me nostalgic.

10 PM : My Resident who is working in the wards came to call me for help. There is a snake bite case in the casualty. I collected an antibiotic vial, emptied, washed and dried. 2 ml Blood. It clotted way before 20 minutes. The patient is a chef who while collecting logs for the kitchen got bitten by an unrecognizable variety of snake. I drew blood for all routine investigations as well. His bystander and the Boss of the Hotel gave me dubious looks : “ Now, How much will this cost ? Make everything free for us – It’s a government hospital right? Discount should be there “. The entire course of Anti snake venom will itself cost around 7000 rupees. I called the resident to speak with the furious bystander.

10.30 PM : Again my ward resident calls me for an emergency ECG. Only casualty has ECG machine. I ran to casualty. The technician is already taking an ECG for a Myocardial infarction case. As soon as it was done, I pulled the technician to the medicine wards. Technician had filled 2 bottles of water from the cooler “ Doctor, this year’s summer is way too harsh than the last year’s.” I held the water bottles and she carried the ECG machine. It was almost a hilarious scene.

11 PM: While returning from the ward, I saw our discharged patient from our medicine ward. He had passed stools on the floor. Security guard yelled at him and calls cleaning personals. He is a destitute. Some political parties on a national imprtance day on the gound of social service picks all the destitutes to hospital and admits. I heard that they get paid according to the number of people they get admitted in a hospital. He never gave any history. A reference to psychiatry was given. The only time he spoke up was to ask for a discharge : It was a DAMA – Discharge Against Medical Advise.

11. 15 PM : We have a new patient in the ICU. Shifted case from the Cardiac ICU. A rare case of Juvenile corpulmonale. 21 year old girl, Past history of Tuberculosis. Her Chest Radiograph was not taken from our hospital and hence I ran to room number 14 to call the XRay technicians. The attending of this girl called the ICU resident and asked him to repeat all the investigations done for her (Obviously – I am the one who is repeating the investigations).

12. AM : There is only one computer for the entire hospital during the night shift . Outpatient department of Surgery has a computer but the room will be opened only in the daytime. I went to casualty computer room to check whether all investigations were billed or not. I clicked a photograph of that screen and returned to the ICU. I switched on my internet : Weirdo (My best friend) had sent me a text “ Pupppppps, made pancakes – image” I hid the notification and started entering the old investigation reports in the case sheets. Everything is on paper.

12.30 AM : My batchmate came to charge his phone in the ICU. He is pediatric ICU night intern. He waves at the ICU resident.

Resident: “Hey! How is it going man ?”

Intern : Busy PICU – Full bed Sir”

Resident : “Why have you bathed in sweat? What’s up?”

Intern : “I was doing CPR Sir, We had a death. 15 year old HIV positive patient with tuberculosis. Continous succtioning – Full of blood. We gave CPR but she passed away.”

He left his phone in the ICU for charging and went back to PICU. Nurses went to sleep, taking turns. ICU resident went to have coffee. I went back to ‘The Namesake’. He came back with “Twix”and a water bottle for his hardworking intern.(How sweet!) I started filling forms as well labelling the vacuitainers which has to be send by 5AM.

2.30 AM : Resident went to sleep and I started off with the ABGs. ( Well, I love to do this !)

Bed No 4 : “ Doctor, don’t prick…last time they hurt me alot…so please don’t prick… Don’t touch me…no more blood”

I somehow convinced the patient.

Patient is silent . – Novagiddhiya ? (Did it hurt?)

Not even a little, Doctor : Thank you ! ( I went all “Aww” )

4 AM : In our wards, we had a case of tetanus and my ward Resident asked me to go and do a monitoring. He was admitted in the isolation ward. The room had no lights. I called the patient’s bystanders and advised diet modifications – especially the protein diet. His respiratory rate was fair. General condition was as well good. No laryngospasm. I wrote my notes in the case sheet.

5 AM: Bed No: 12’s mother came inside to change her daughter’s diapers. She wiped her daughter’s body using a wet cloth, combed her hair, applied kumkum ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumkuma) and vibhuti (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibhuti)on her forehead. Bystanders of other patients came following that – to do the same. I gave the urocol bottles to them for collecting urine and stool for the investigations. The entire ICU was stinking. Staff nurse who just came passed a mask to me. I went to check blood pressures of all patients. One patient, I could not even feel the pulse. Most of the patients were edematous. While removing the cuff of the sphygmomanometer, I could see pitting edema.

6.30 AM : I replied to my weirdo

“Ah! Pancakes – save one for me”

I received an almost instant reply

“Idiot! You are replying after hours, meanwhile – I slept and woke up.”

“Weirdo man, I had night ICU duty”

“ Oh, I feel you puppps, I have OPD today, Let’s have breakfast today”

“ Sky bakery 8.15 AM ?

“Okies”

My ward Resident called me again for a diabetic foot dressing and sending blood for the routne investigations of 3 new admissions. That would make around 30 ml blood and 18 vacuitainers. I had ran out of vacuitaniers, I had almost 60 of them at 8 PM yesterday night – All got over. I called my Ward cointerns to come a little early with the vacuitainers.

7 AM : Few more XRays. I again ran to Room No. 14, for some reason it was closed. I returned to the ICU to write follow ups, Blood Pressure, GRBS and the investigation reports.

8. 05 AM : The day ICU intern came. I thanked nurses and residents for the great work and walked back to meet weirdo for breakfast with my backpack. A great company, hot sulaimani (black tea) and an authentic Kerala (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala) breakfast. Scorching March summer’s Sunlight sparkled and danced with the top layer of my ‘sulaimani’. I was gleaming !