Category Archives: General Musings

Home and Books

Sometimes, we need to be around people from very different from us to just nudge us exactly how much we need to be in the direction we need to be in.

I’m sitting in this room, a small 10 by 10 feet room, with a large bed, a brown table and a few chairs. There’s a cubical inverter that consumes space in one of the corners. There’s a book case right opposite me stacked to the brim. There a tiny money plant on a shelf with the wifi router, right above the inverter.

It’s a functional room. It’s the front room of our house.

With my father taken from us, I keep thinking of creating a home somewhere else. But in reality, this is the house I grew up in – this is what home always would be. And maybe, we should protect that at all costs. Maybe, this should stay, in spite of how much our lives change, exactly how it is, today. Maybe, I should come back to this home, many years later, flanked by kids, and let them see the home I grew up in.

I started reading Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines yesterday. I was planning to buy a Kindle last night, but then I thought, let me at least get used to the idea of reading electronically. I do, of course, read a lot electronically. Web pages and emails. Mostly all my serious reading happens on screens. But one needs to to read for pleasure as well. I realize I have been reading so little for pleasure, just to feel good.

So started with Amitav Ghosh yesterday. It’s feeling good so far.

Until later.

Should relationships have expiry dates?

When I was in middle school I often had these episodes when I used to stop talking to my classmates as a result of random fights. Sometimes, the fights wouldn’t even be explicit. We just stopped talking for a period which varied between two days to even two months at a stretch. But once that period was over, we started talking normally as before, as if nothing had happened.

I think not confronting issues straight up is ingrained in Indian culture. We like our periods of not talking, fuming separately.

But having worked in corporate set up for several years now, I think I have become slightly better at confrontations. I have learnt not letting things go without explanation.

Sometimes when it comes to personal relationships though, it still gets tricky. Should relationships have expiry dates? Or can we fall in and out of touch, and then resume back contact after a period as easily as it was during those childhood days?

I have done that as well, as an adult. Trying to patch things up.

But as I get older, somehow, I have started letting things go. We hope people will change, but sometimes it takes too long. Do we want to tolerate that strained relationship hoping that person would change or see to your point of view? At the same time, you know you are changing as a person and your priorities are changing too. So maybe you are already in a zone from where things can only diverge further and any chance of convergence is because in your heart you wish to live in an alternate reality, knowing well it would never be true.

This is how I feel now. Maybe, some more years and my perspective will again shift. To be honest, with this pandemic, I have often thought that maybe we should abandon all fights and just live in peace. While that is ideal, human nature always surfaces. It’s difficult to hold your patience when you yourself are under a lot of strain. Those fights are perhaps not easy to avoid, even though we wish we can.

I think within Nature there is as much a place for a storm as there is for calm. So, in the end, if it helps you reach your intended level of peace and calm, maybe some fights are worth it.

What do you guys think? Let me know.

The role of a hobby in a crisis

Some of us consciously look for hobbies. Some of us just go on living about our lives, doing the things that need to be done on a day to day basis, without feeling the need to cultivate a hobby.

Sometimes, when one goes through intense periods of crisis, one questions the true purpose and meaning of life. What is the real point of life? Will we see better days? How do we move forward from loss?

These questions all merit thought and discussion. Our low points in life are not few and far between. The daily rigmarole of life is often unbearable in the face of grief. Yet, if one has learnt to invest oneself in things larger than themselves, and actively so, then life feels lot more livable.

As I cope through the loss of my father, I still feel a sense of relief when I see the plants on my rooftop and front yard brimming with life. The loss I have faced is significant, yet, that loss of life is somehow adjusted by abundance of life somewhere else. You then truly learn to appreciate the cyclic nature of life.

My mother, put into a patriarchal setup in a traditional house filled in-laws in ’90s India, has only learnt to serve. A major chunk of her life has been about getting better at household chores, putting food on the plate on time, cleaning utensils and clothes, caring for us when we fall sick. She has not learnt to accept but give, and give selflessly. I have not seen her watching movies or enjoying nice meals at a restaurant. Now that I have picked up some of her work in the household, I realize that it would take a lot of drive to spare time to do things just for fun.

These days, while she is recovering from Covid herself, she has been watching YouTube videos and some TV, none of which she wholeheartedly enjoys. She keeps complaining that she wants to get back to the business of her former life, which is now a shell of what it used to be. I worry for her. I worry that she might feel so lost in despair that she might not know how to move forward. Even as I write this, I know that she perhaps will, but how well?

I feel if she did have a hobby, she might be able to distract herself, focus on something outside of her, have a momentary break from the pain in her heart. Which is why, my brother and I have to be extra careful with her.

I have found, even in these deep times of doom, writing has given me courage. Knowing that I can put these words out here, my feelings exactly as I feel them gives me courage. It makes me feel like I am leaving a small part of myself into these words and leaving behind a little bit of that self. Every moment that I stay focused in creation, I am in a state of metamorphosis, working toward a new self, someone who is stronger for the shells that she loses.

Has your hobby helped you deal with loss or grief? Do share your story with us.

Living with uncertainty

It’s not new that the pandemic has pulled us all into a state of uncertainty. But it’s only when it merges with your existence that you really begin to see the disarray.

A lot of you perhaps know that I lost my father to Covid 19 in May. Mourning the loss of a loved one is tough in itself. In this case, it was intensified further by the fact that we did not have anyone to stand by us in this time. On top of that, I caught an ear infection and have been having a low grade fever for over two weeks. My brother has been coughing for several weeks now. We, however, have tested negative twice for the virus.

One can imagine what all of this combined means for us as a family. Leave aside the fact that we have been wearing masks in the house for over a week. Leave aside the fact that you second guess your own test results every single moment that you think about it. Leave aside the sleeplessness, the constant state of worry that one is in. Life still must go on. Food needs to be cooked, baths need to be taken. Even if your heart breaks, you must get back to work, because you must hold onto every shred of normalcy that you can.

Work gives one a sense of purpose. As the world shuffles and realigns itself around me, I’m still glad to have things around me which are same. The work goals remain the same. While my managers are understanding about my availability and bandwidth, there are still soft deadlines to be met. I gotta buck up and keep going.

My brother bought a new phone today because his old one just gave up on him – and something as simple as seeing him set up the phone gives one the impression that life continues in its own cycle. I ordered a hard disk myself because I no longer have storage on my laptop – thanks to all the videos I shot for YouTube.

Standing today, I don’t know what tomorrow will look like. When tomorrow comes, in hindsight we will know how the story played out. With the benefit of hindsight, we will feel like this was always meant to happen. But in this moment, I’m living and breathing an uncertainty. Of life. Of hopes and dreams. We can only take one day at a time and hold onto as much normalcy as we can. Whatever it takes to get to the other side, whatever it takes!

The show must go on!

Couple of days before my father passed away, he wanted to come back home. He called us from the hospital in the morning, asking to be discharged. We thought it was a temporary burst. But he called again in the afternoon, this time demanding that he be taken home right away, despite the potential outcomes of us trying to take him out of the ICU.

He was heavily oxygenated and experiencing breathing troubles and chest pain. Perhaps he knew the end was near. He just wanted to be back once in his familiar circumstances, next to us, near his parents’ photos.

We could not bring him home.

My mother said, when my father was initially sick with Covid and at home, he’d mentioned that he would perhaps not get a chance to meet anyone ever again. My mother shrugged it off, thinking how people think negative thoughts when they are ill. Maybe, he really knew.

Do people really know their time is up?

Families that are dealing with Covid do not get much closure. Your loved one is fine one day and the next day they are being hospitalized. Then, all of a sudden, you hear the news they are no more. You don’t get to perform their funeral because you need to be safe. All in all, it is surreal.

We still are in a state of shock of whether it really happened. We still feel perhaps one fine day, he’ll just walk up the stairs and knock on the door and if we open it a tad too late, holler, “Where are you all? Open the door right now!”

I wish it would happen that way.

As we battle this pandemic, everything feels so uncertain. There was a point when I was saving money for retirement. Most of it is automated, so I haven’t put a stop to any of those. But all the additional investments that I used to make have been put on hold.

Life is so, so fragile. You plan one thing and another happens. I know hope is our only way to move forward, but when you’re this low, sometimes, you’re afraid to even hope. For my dad, I had written so many positive chants. I had visualized positive outcomes with him back home and us doing the things he’d love to do. All came to nothing.

Yet, till the time one is breathing, and breathing fine, one must be grateful for all that is. Once you close your eyes, for the final time, the world stops. There can be no more dreams. No more expectations. All debts are squared off, all credits are collected. It is the end.

While it is not, the show must go on.

Forging new relationships off the crumbs of that are no more

Both my father and mother grew up in large families. My father had seven siblings, my mother had three. Of the two, my father was the one who liked socializing the most. He was someone who would try to connect with a random stranger, ask them where they were from and try to find a common acquaintance in the most absurd of ways.

Now that my father is gone, we have been getting so many phone calls from so many different people who have been touched by him in some ways at some points in their lives. There have been relatives with whom we had fallen out of touch, few who we have never spoken to before, several with whom we sort of stopped contact because of differences. In spite of my mother’s frustration, my father kept up with them all. He never would explain why it was important for him to stay in touch with people. He fought with my mom when she got upset about him calling people who didn’t speak to us.

Now that he is no more, those people are calling us and treating us with so much kindness. When our hearts are so broken, their voices and the way they speak about my father are helping us cope. It reminds me how powerful keeping in touch is.

We have all taken our lives for granted, our relationships for granted. We do not forgive easily, we hold onto hurt and anger. Yet in times like this, every morning when I wake up and feel fine physically, I feel gratitude. Even when I console my grieving mother, I tell her that while we have lost something, we still have so much to hold onto.

I try now to spend a bit more time speaking to friends and relatives over the phone, trying to get to know them, learnings bits and pieces of their lives. Maybe this is how I am subconsciously channeling my father’s spirits.

It’s true what they say: the people we love may not be physically present with us, but they are always with us in spirit. It’s true because when you’re faced with a loss so deep, you learn to base your decisions not just by your worldview, but by those of the ones that you lost. In that way, our dead are never dead. They live in us as long as we live. Or as long as we keep them alive in our memories.

Mourning the loss of a parent

After eighteen long days of battle with Covid-19, my father finally left this mortal world yesterday morning.

As an adult, if you are lucky to still have your parents around, worrying about parents’ health is in that long-list of adulthood worries. While I was in Bangalore, I worried about this day in and day out, picturing how it would be when something of this sort might happen.

It did happen, and happened in an unexpected manner. Very few people with Covid need to be hospitalized. Fewer still get a cytokine storm (lungs inflammation as the body’s response to the virus) in the third week of the disease. My father was among the choicest few. In the end, the man who always took deep breaths and did all sorts of physical exercise and yoga to stay fit, struggled for air in his lungs.

Our loss is permanent, but because we always knew this was a possibility since he was hospitalised, we are coping okay. Tears well up in the most minute of occasions, but we have learnt to wipe them and think of more positive things and distract ourselves.

As of now, our hearts are blameless. We have stopped going into loops of ifs and buts. We are telling ourselves that we did the best we could. Our father did the best he could. The doctors tried their hardest.

I sent out so many positive vibes to the Universe, but the Universe had other plans. You cannot dictate terms. We are so small in the grand scale of events. Once you remove yourself from the daily life and take yourself 9,000 feet above, you realise these are but minor blimps in the cosmic chain of events. Grief is temporary. Loss is permanent. Memories will sometimes make us smile and sometimes make us cry. Yet, while we are in the cycle of life, we just have to walk on: eat, breathe, sleep and hopefully help spread a little bit of positivity in the world.

If you’re reading this and are going through something yourself, I am hear to listen to you. Do feel free to reach out. I wish your good health and emotional resilience.

How to stay positive in times of crisis?

If you’ve read my last post, you perhaps know that my father is fighting Covid and is still on high levels of oxygen support in an ICU.

Over the last few days, the emotional whirlwinds that we have had to deal with has manifested itself in many ways. My mother is struggling to eat. I used to wake up in the middle of the night amid chills. Our heart rates are perpetually fast. I don’t know enough medical science to understand how deep this is hurting us.

Yet, in the last couple of days, when my father has particularly worsened, I am trying to work out a method to cope.

My father and I have always shared a complex relationship. I have always known that I do not know how best to communicate with him. I have fought with him more than I have had a normal conversation with him.

But in this time of crisis, I have been sitting, with my hands on the walls (or sometimes sitting and holding my mother’s hands), channeling all the positive energy that I have into my father’s recovery. I believe in no God, so I cannot possibly pray to any many-faced God. I have been talking directly to my father, telling him how every second that he takes in a breath, his body is healing. All the wreckage in his lungs is dissolving and he’s regenerating new, healthy lung tissues. I have been telling my father that he has always been a fighter, and the fact that he’s in the ICU for so many days, as the world collapses around him, he’s been so strong. We are all there beside him, even though we are not physically present, we are channeling all our strength and emotional resilience towards him. This is his singular fight and only he can overcome it. But we are all in this together. I pray for the cells in his body to soothe, to calm down the hyperactivity in his tissues and focus on healing. I know that he will heal. All the world is with him and fighting together.

I know that the road from here is filled with light. Even though I am intermittently scared and brave, I know we will have the last laugh.

Fund raiser for Swapan Kumar Pramanick (contribute if you can, or help amplify):

Fighting Covid-19 – Update on my father who is battling it for over 3 weeks

We are all in a pandemic, but until someone close to us is impacted, we can never know how deep or complex this disease is.

My father was at home for about 10 days since his onset of symptoms: fever, cough, breathlessness. He was admitted to a hospital on 2nd May and up until 9th May, he was steadily progressing. His was initially put on 15L of oxygen support with a biPAP (a high pressure oxygen mask that helps it easier to the patient to breathe) and it came down to 4L without a biPAP.

Unfortunately, since then, he did not progress any further and was static at 4L up until 7th May. The treating physician was willing to discharge him at the time on oxygen support, but unfortunately, on doing further tests, they realized he still has underlying issues and is at risk (his CRP levels came out to be 70, which should be ~7). Since then, his oxygen support has steadily increased (12-15L as of 16th May). The doctors have done a CT scan and are suspecting early fibrosis.

The prognosis at this stage is bad, and he needs critical care for an undefined time period.

As a family, we were thrown into this whirlwind without much warning. Over the last three weeks, we have been going through a roller coaster of emotions, worrying whether my father would be able to fight this. At some points, we have wondered whether he is receiving the best medical care, but having spoken to many medical practitioners over the last week I realize that this disease is so new and is manifesting in such different ways that there is very little control that the doctors can exercise. Covid-19 has no cure, and everything that the patient is receiving is mere supportive care. No single test on its own can help infer anything conclusively about this disease and this is why this disease is as elusive to the doctors as it is to us.

It’s so important to stay strong in this period. My family and I are having our phases of weakness. My mother is struggling to eat out of worry. I have had nights when I have got little to no sleep, my ears pricked for a phone call which would declare the worst. I have woken up in the middle of the night, shaking, worried sick that my father will not receive the care that he needs because we may not be able to afford this financially.

If you’re reading this, and if you have fought this disease yourself, I salute your spirit. We are all in dire times and not most of us are getting to have the last laugh. If you are someone who has not been impacted by this disease in any manner so far, consider yourself very lucky. Please wear your masks and take your vaccines if you can. If you think there’s any symptom, do NOT ignore. If caught early, there is still a lot that can be done.

Please keep my father in your prayers. My brother and I have started a fundraiser to help us keep our father breathing. If you’re able to contribute in some way, please do. If not, please help amplify this message so someone else who can help, will.

Thank you for reading this. I wish you good health and emotional resilience.

Covid 19 Fund raiser for Swapan Kumar Pramanick: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-sudipto-pramanik?utm_source=whatsapp&utm_medium=fundraisers-title

Has nonfiction overpowered fiction?

We often tend base our ideologies on the the thoughts and the opinions of people we see around us. Or by the social media content that we consume. When our world was less connected, there were still large differences in the way we did things. Now, more than ever, we are increasingly becoming alike.

Case in point: When I was a young girl growing up in India, I read a lot of story books. At the time, access to good books was limited, given that there were not enough, accessible public libraries in my hometown.

I read the same book over and over again, hidden behind the open pages of my schoolbooks, just because I loved those stories so much. I have read them so often that many years later, I remember exactly what had happened in the stories.

A decade later, the reading habits among the people around me have drastically shifted. I personally have started reading a lot of nonfiction books on social science and personal finance. At least in my circle this seems to be the trend.

People now often consider fiction as an indulgence, if not a waste of time. Everyone wants to be learning something these days: consuming hard cold facts or hard cold skills. Very few seem to be interested in being lost in a good story, in an imaginary world, roaming in the worlds weaved cleverly by skilled authors. At least that’s how I see it.

What do you guys think?