Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Medical "boor"ism, anyone?

I recently read this heartrending account of one family's loss due to gross negligence and purposeful maltreatment by a medical establishment in Chennai. For those that have not read this, please do so and follow the links at the bottom to see more accounts of sickening misconduct and avarice in the name of medical treatment by the same establishment. My heart goes out to all those affected and I pray that the outrage that we as individuals feel can somehow penetrate the lethargy and the indifference that we as a collective exhibit, that we move towards a complete overhaul of the medical establishment and their attitudes towards the patients, that they see us less as a money making mechanism and more as the hope filled individuals that are looking upon them as God. That we as a nation demand more accountability. And that we will not tolerate one more instance of wrongful death at the hands of the very people sworn to protect us. AND - while waiting for that change to take shape, folks, please! do your homework in choosing your doctor.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cooking Chronicles - 1

I am not a chef and I have never aspired to be one. Ever. I can cook rice in the pressure cooker and the most basic of vegetables. Most of my cooking before my kids were born used to consist of microwaving plates of cold rice and sabji the local “ben” aunty would provide. But in the last four years, with motherhood has come certain pangs – pangs of guilt that my kids are being conditioned to my bad food and that they are missing out on the delicacies that I enjoyed as a child. And come festival time, the pangs turn into a full fledged clamor in my mind. As much as I love the idea of celebrating every Pilayar Chaturthi with kozhakattais, every varsha paruppu with vadai and payasam and every Gokulashtami with thattai and seedai, as much as I dream about how I will be a bustling hive of activity come “pandigai” day, that out of my pan would come the crispest thattais, the softest polis, the sweetest athirasams, there is a part of me that is praying for these festivals to fall on a weekday so that I can use the convenient excuse of work to make the barest minimum to hold my guilt at bay. I also spend the two days before, working extra hours at work or taking my kids to an extra outing to tire myself out so I can convince myself that I am too tired to cook.
But Gokulashtami this year is a Saturday. And I had no excuses this morning. So I woke up and before you could say “good morning” I was already on the phone with amma, badgering her for recipes. Patta walked in bleary eyed and sensing trouble(and maybe work with the "help" he would have to inevitably provide me), busied himself with getting himself and the kids out of harm’s way. I started with the thattais. The dough had too much water, it seems, and the first batch refused to stay flat in the oil. Some of them even stuck to the bottom. I hurriedly took that batch out and threw them in the dustbin, to hide from Patta (and myself) the evidence of the beginnings of a disaster. The second batch came out brown but soft, like the chewy ├ęclairs Cadbury’s makes. Hmmm. The third batch ended up in the trash black and sooty and I didn’t even remember at that point what thattais were supposed to look like. I then decided that maybe we did not want to eat thatta’s this year but seedai, now seedais were supposed to be Krishna’s favorite snack. So I mixed the batter for the seedais. I proudly popped the tester one in my mouth and it was so salty I nearly choked on it. I then proceeded to mix in more maavu to negate the effect of the salt. Now amma had warned me that seedais tend to burst out of the pan and splatter oil all over you and the floor. But I was disdainful that such a thing could happen to me. So I proudly put in 15 or so in the oil and within minutes, it was a war zone in my kitchen. The seedais started bursting out of the pan and I am sure that they multiplied some how while they were in there. Dodging the flying missiles, I managed to remove the seedais out of the oil and proceeded to clean up the kitchen. By which point the oil overheated and caught fire. Somewhere between fighting the oil spill and the oil fire, self-preservation stomped on my guilt clamors, stomping till they went back to whatever dark corners they hide in on most days. I lifted the receiver and said “Hello, Patta, could you PLEASE pick up a packet of thattais from the desi store on your way back?”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's in a title?

Jan22, 2008
Today I became a periamma. My sister has a beatiful 9lb11oz. bundle of joy and I am ecstatic about becoming an aunt. But I am not ecstatic about becoming a "periamma". What's in a title? you may ask. But think about it - the cool aunt is the "chitthi", the fun aunt is her, the playful one, the one with whom you can get into vambu and veshamam, the one who gets scolded by Paati along with you. THe one who can throw tantrums just like you and have thatha or Paati still call her "kutti" (even though you are the real kutti of the house). She will run around the house with you and generally goad you into more mischief. She will beg with you for treats from Paati and amma. And she will play with you more than any other person in the house. Periamma - sigh, a periamma is an authoritarian, she is the one who doles out the treats you and your chithi asked for with identical puppy-dog expressions. She is the one that tells you to be more responsible, why, she even tells your amma to be more responsible. She is the one you can complain to about your amma and watch your amma getting told off . While that brought me great glee when I was little, do I necessarily want my niece to see me in that role? Not that I would mind telling my sister off occasionally. (she is our "kutti" you see and I CAN tell her off :)). I could ask her to call me "aunty" but i have never been a fan of unifying all our wonderful, numerous, relationship-specifying titles into one bland all-encompassing black umbrella of "Uncle" or "Aunty". Can you imagine not calling your father's sister "athai" or your mum's brother "mama" or your aunt "manni" or "chithi" or "perimma"? Exactly. So my niece WILL call me "perimma". And I will just smile everytime she does and learn to like it because I know that chithi or perimma, my love for her will always be the same (and maybe I will manage to throw in some chitthi style looti with her one day).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eulogy of trilogies and other series

I love books . I love trilogies even more and if there are more than three books in the series, I love those series even more. Don't get me wrong - the single book in a non-series also captivates and thrills me. But. Once I read it, I no longer have the anticipation I feel when I have a new book, unexplored, it's twists and turns not yet revealed to me. I envy, no, I am jealous of someone that starts a book that I have finished and loved. I will never feel the same exhiliration again of running with Amir and Hassan as they run behind the last kite or sit with Uncle Tom outside the cabin while he whittles his wood or commiserate with Emma as she cries about the secrets Jack has just revealed. Instead, when I read the book again (which I know I will do many times - I never get tired of most books), it will be as if I am looking into a Penseive of my own thoughts and I already know what happened but I need to dust my memory a bit to catch the finer nuance of the words, a specific cadence that I adore. The last page is the beginning of my mourning - that the adventure does not go on, that the love story that has no end has ended or that the hero or the heroine is dead and a part of me that loved them as much as their lover did, died. So that is why I love a series in a book. I carry with me like a talisman the knowledge that the last page is not really the end, that Harry has gone for the summer and is having a good time at the Weasley's while I can finish my chores and await his arrival back at Hogwarts, or that Becky continues to shop and will soon be married to Luke in a grand affair or that Gage will be back with Cybil and the blood brothers will finish the Big Evil with the three fated women. I know - the series ends and my mouning is bigger for the bigger experience with the people in the book but the anticipation of the arrival of the next book in the series is something I liken to the arrival of a baby after months of waiting, carrying the expectation and the longing in your heart to just know what the book will bring with it and to share the joys and the emotions of the characters in the book. I salute you JRR Tolkien, I salute you JK Rowling, I salute you Sophie Kinsella, I salute you Nora Roberts for some of the best series I have read and for making my life rich with anticipation and excitement while you have slaved over your writing tool to provide me with yet another adventure filled, excitement loaded classic

Monday, August 18, 2008

Of growing young and growing old

I saw my first white hair today. Not gray. White. It was a startling white against the remaining, just washed and shampooed and shined black, black hair. Actually, Patta saw it and ofcourse I thought he was joking and refused to believe that I could have anything less than glossy black on my hair until he actually pulled it out and gave it to me, a silver present that I really didn't want. I have been feeling my chest tighten with panic all morning - this is me, a 31 year old who has always assumed that I would age gracefully when the time to age came, but right now? And here I was, panicking because of one white hair and then panicking because I was panicking. You get my does one age gracefully when you are terrified of one white hair?
On another note, Vinay had his first Bala Vihar session last night and I was so proud! Here is where my youth lies, in my sons. I see it everyday in their eyes, their curiosity in everyday mundane things, reinforcing to me how blase I have become about my world. When the teacher was talking to the kids about the Ramayana, one little girl, all of 7, piped up and said " I have a question - why didn't Kaikeyi banish Rama into exile like forever?Why 14 years?" and just like that, I felt like someone had shaken me to the core. WHy indeed?