Category Archives: General Musings

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:

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?

How free is the free market?

Do you sometimes feel that we humans complicated our world too much for our own good?

As an early career professional, I have been thinking about different types of investments for my personal finance. In the times that we are in, Cryptocurrency does come into one’s purview, especially when you have so many social media influencers pitching it and you yourself understand very little of the complex economics.

Anyhow, today’s rant is based off of a series of YouTube videos I’ve been watching on Cryptocurrency to understand why is Bitcoin so expensive.

To the extent that I have understood, the so called “FREE MARKET” comes to play. It’s basic supply and demand, they say. If someone is willing to pay 10 million dollars for something they deem of that value, who’s to say it isn’t? If there’s someone willing to pay, do we even need a regulator to exist?

I’ll give an example closer home. I’ve lived in Bangalore for years to know how expensive security deposit for renting a flat can be. It’s a norm which has stood its time, at least until Covid, because there’s always demand for renting in Bangalore and there are people who can pay that amount. So the owners can charge what they want. However, not everyone can pay.

For cryptocurrency, you could say it’s okay – no one is forcing you to buy one, so why do you care if it’s expensive? Very true. But when it comes to renting, it does affect me. So it does so for many other people.

The comparison here, between renting and cryptocurrencies, hold valid because at the end of the day, it is the free market that’s allowing this to be. For prices to be jacked up because few players can afford to buy and sell and rest everyone can be forced out of that little, private game.

And I know this isn’t new. For the longest time, this is how human society has operated. It makes you question, how do things get their value? How valuable is water, air to you? How valuable is an iPhone? Especially for crypto, if there’s no underlying value (and when I say that, I mean not many governments today has accepted it as currency – so how is it that it’s getting its value?), then how can it be so expensive today?

Anyhow, it is perhaps on me to do a lot more reading to figure that out myself. But the larger question is, can there be a different world where prices can be controlled for the benefit of the majority and not selected few? If so, would the forces in power today allow that? As humanity, what should our goal be? To thrive as powerful families in a few hundreds or let the majority thrive? Maybe there’s merit to capitalism – maybe, billions of humans are indeed a strain on Earth’s resources, so there needs to be elimination of few in natural, social, economic or political ways. But as I say that, I also know that we can’t know of sure what is right and what is wrong. What is a strain and what isn’t. At any point of time, we are doing the best that we can, but our worldviews are always narrow.

Summer Colours

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew there are things you want/need to do, but didn’t end up doing because life happened?

As a person, there are several things which recharge me creatively: writing, reading, gardening, sketching, making videos and so on. However, when the going gets tough work-wise, I end up focusing singlemindedly on that and forget that there are other things to life than just that.

This March my work calendar was crazy. Naturally, I did very less to energize myself. The interesting part is, amid all that business, I was also organizing a sustainability related event at work. It meant that I had to work few hours extra every day, but sustainability is a cause that I am passionate about, hence I wanted to do all I could to help. The event was on World Forest Day and Water Day. I had to make a presentation on a beginner’s journey in gardening, showcasing all the plant collection that I have. I made a colorful presentation that captured all the hues of my garden. I have to admit though, at the time, I did question how much value add that presentation would be to the audience. Also, until the event, I was considering making the presentation a chore rather than something to enjoy.

But having made the presentation and brightening my mood with the colors, I was left with a different feeling. I realized that I had lost touch with my garden (my mother was doing all the watering/pruning herself) and I needed to get back on track. To that effect, I have again become active in my garden and am gradually adding summer colors to it. You’re welcome to have a look at my journey on my Instagram id: @arpitamanick

Until next time!

Intermingling cultures and hybrid identities

Happy Ugadi and Gudi Padwa to all those who celebrate the festivals in your part of India. Since my base work location is in Bangalore, I am enjoying a nice Tuesday vacation today on account of Ugadi.

The Bengali equivalent of Ugadi is on the 15th of April, when my family would do their usual celebrations, but I’d be busy with work. This lockdown has allowed me to stay with my parents for the time being, but that said, sometimes the workload is such that it wouldn’t matter where I am – given that I have such little time to spend with my family outside of work during the workweek.

Well, maybe it’s not as bad most days as the last statement might make you think – I do like the job and feel fulfilled by it. But there are days when I am in endless meetings when grabbing glass of water feels unaffordable.

I’m perhaps digressing. The point that I wanted to make is given that we are migrating so often from our homes, we cannot but embrace the cultures of the places we go to, if not in spirit then in mere execution. For example, I might not care about the underlying spirit of Ugadi as a festival; but I sure might go out today and enjoy some nice food were I in Bangalore. Two days later though, I’d be back in my meetings, forgetting that it’s Poila Boisakh on which my family would be welcoming the Bengali New Year.

Such hybrid identities have become the norm. For the most part, it becomes a part of us so subtly that you won’t probably complain. Well, you might when you just left home and the remains of your younger self craves for the same holidays that you forever enjoyed. But gradually, you get used to it. You learn to blend in, you learn to not complain. You mellow down.

Yet, on a summer afternoon, when you get to the rooftop and take stock of your life, you might realize just how unsettling the change is. You are a version of you which you weren’t a decade back. At times, you might not even recognize yourself. Even as you know that your hybrid identity is who you are now, and that’s all that you will have.

Update: 01

Hey guys,

Hope you all are doing great. It’s been such a long time since I wrote anything on this blog – this is the first post of 2021 and we’re already in April.

When I started this blog in 2015, I was convinced that I wanted to be an author. I was young, fresh out of college, and unaware of where my life was headed. I didn’t know then within the next three years I would somehow lose myself. I’d somehow stop being the person who I was, crazy about books: reading them and writing them. I’d want to express myself in more visual medium, no longer trusting just words to do justice to what I was going through. I’d also find myself again, in the next few months – healed by people who never knew how broken I was or how they really helped me.

Adulthood somehow humbles us, makes us more somber. It teaches you to learn to optimize and take decisions that are in your best interests, even if it’s not what your heart wants. So, this past week, I ended up taking a decision like that: to finally vacate my flat in Bangalore and shift to my hometown in the interim.

Personally, I find it difficult to take decisions that impacts the way of life. I have never travelled much as a kid, hence, the thought of being mobile with no permanent residence does bother me to some extent. Having said that, I know that such biases don’t necessarily support the best of economic sense. At some point, you need to count your chickens, cut your losses and move on in life. Even if you miss standing in that balcony overlooking squirrels on nameless trees or the plants that you will leave behind.

The bright side is, there’s a lot on offer at my hometown. After several months, I am getting the chance to stay with my whole family. That is precious. I love the simple town that I am from. I’m also learning a bunch of new skills: growing vegetables, riding a scooty. I’m trying to gain as much confidence as I can in areas where I had no skillset. It feels good.

Anyways, this is supposed to be a short status update telling you all that I expect to spend more time here in the coming days, writing posts that you all can enjoy. I’m also focusing on finishing a book that I had begun in 2020. Hopefully, that will also come along soon.

Until the next one, keep well and take care!

What is your earliest memory of falling sick?

Today, I was in a meeting in my office where they were talking about a program to teach kids about this pandemic, mainly educating them on the importance of handwashing and how that can help them from falling ill.

It made me wonder about how strange it must be to teach a kid what falling ill is all about unless they understand the feeling first hand. Though, I suppose, every child might have some exposure to having fallen sick by the time they get to schools and we teach them the importance of handwashing. But the whirlwind of thoughts took me back in time and made me wonder, what is my first memory of falling sick?

I remember a specific day when I had gotten fever after a school picnic – a definite case of food poisoning. I also remember multiple episodes of me running high temperatures, the taste in my mouth all bland, the sheer tiredness and turning round and round in the bed. Nothing felt comfortable. I preferred to lie right next to the wall touching the bed so I could derive the coolness of the wall as temporary relief. It felt horrible! It always does.

I also remember the bout of toothache in the middle of the night. A pain that originated in one tooth but seemed to have spread throughout the mouth and then travelled all the way up to the head. Hours staying up and putting toothpaste or cloves in the tooth for relief.

But no, I am struggling to remember my first memory of sickness. I cannot remember when was the first time right out of my mother’s womb I learnt what it feels not to feel the best version of myself.

How about you, dear reader? Do you remember?

Spilling Hearts

Sometimes, we are lost. We are walking in a wilderness, peopled by grasses taller than us. Their rough edges slice our skin as we navigate through. There is a sting where the skin breaks and a thin strip of blood oozes out, eager to explore the world beyond our blood vessels.

That sting travels all the way to our brain, then spreads out evenly into our whole body. Or does it?

Somewhere a nerve has torn, and the world feels foreign, devoid of the usual sensations.

There are a lot of voices. A lot of voices. Every voice speaking in a language that serves its own needs. Howling for your attention, screaming that they “own” the truth. What is the truth? It is, like my friend said, what you choose to believe. But when all the voices shout in a theme which feels relatable, which version do you accept?

And so, a hotchpotch of ideas hurl themselves against the walls of the brains. Blood, hormones, chemical reactions working their way for you to make sense of the world. Only, it does not make sense anymore.

An eyelid twitches. You worry if it’s an early onset of some nervous breakdown. It has never happened to you before. But you know that you have been forgetting the smallest things for a while now. The things which do not need any thinking, the things which are reflex. So, it does not impact your professional life just yet. But it is lurking in the corner, biding its time, waiting to claim your entire existence. A world when you won’t remember what is what. A world which has stopped making sense to you.

Yet, even in your sanest right now, how much of this world does make sense?

On departures and social constructs

Waking up at a different hour than your usual can sometimes be cathartic.

Since the Covid situation started, I have been working out of my home. I no longer have a job which requires me to wake up at 7 AM in the morning to take calls with the onsite. No longer do I even need to wake up at 8 AM, so I can finish breakfast and leave for office on time.

My morning routine these days consists of waking up at an hour which the young me would have been shocked at and wouldn’t have been allowed anyways in my parents’ house. Yet, the whole world is reeling under a pandemic and wake-up hours may be the least of concern to anyone involved.

However, this morning, couple of my flatmates left the flat as they are going back home. To see them off, I woke up at 6.30 AM. They left about 7 AM. Just having woken up at an hour which you probably have not seen for the better part of a year, you have no idea what to do.

I spoke to my mother for an hour, grateful that some people still wake up at decent human hours and are available for a chat. We talked about people leaving and the emptiness left behind – the suitcases that no longer crowd the hall. The utensils which have magically disappeared, the shoe racks which just hold some blank shoe boxes and dirt from the shoes that no longer belong.

Having spent five years in this city, I would say I have grown to not being affected by departure. I have learnt to shut the lid on memories and reopen them when they are convenient or simply gushing into the mind-screen. The weekends past spent on pizza parties are just that – past. I know now that these weekends are not to come back, but what will indeed come by are new people and new memories which come with them.

This pandemic has taught me the importance of being around people in life. In some ways, I am saint-like in my life. I could go hours without talking to anyone, thinking to myself, reading something or just generally doing things which do not matter in the grand scheme of life. Yet, in the handful of parties that have been held in the house in the last month or so and a game of monopoly which I have gotten great at over the period, I realize the importance of the social construct.

I did not grow up learning to respect friendship. It worked back in the day, because we lived in houses filled with nosy relatives or pesky neighbors, people who made your business their business. But here, in the high-rises of Bangalore, no one really cares. If you ever exchange any words, that’s perhaps because you haven’t been responsible with your trash or you cost your neighbors their sweet sleep with your loud music. We are generally good tenants, which means, we don’t often get called out for the two behaviors mentioned above. Which means, we live in a three-bedroom flat, my flatmates and I, and we are pretty much on our own, on our own routine.

And within that, when people come and just fill up your lives, in the form of a maid or a random co-worker of a flatmate who you’ll never see again, somehow it feels good. The world is a beautiful place, but it is made all the more beautiful by the sheer variety of people living in it. In some ways, even the pesky neighbors feel like a fixture of the past era now. There is an odd pain in everything being perfect, without a bother. I do love my solitude, but we will continue to be social creatures until perhaps the end of this civilization, in spite of our machines ripping us off our human interactions. In between, perhaps these pandemics will serve us with a reminder of who we ought to be and what we really need to thrive in the world that we have made up to be so complex.