January 30, 2012

Book Review---''Zero Percentile-2.0 missed IIT kissed Gurgaon''

Title: Zero Percentile–2.0, Missed IIT kissed Gurgaon
Author: Neeraj Chhibba
Publisher: Rupa & Co.
Price: Rs 140/-

'Zero Percentile-2.0 missed IIT kissed Gurgson' is a sequel to 'Zero Percentile-missed IIT kissed Russia' and takes forward the story of Pankaj, Motu & Priya.
In this book, Pankaj and Motu start a small software company called Numerosoft.
With big dreams full of hope and ambition, they invest a small fortune with the overwhelming desire to conquer the world.
Little do they know that success will turn out to be so stubborn.
As things get messier on the work front, friends drift apart and the business is divided.Their closest friends and business associates are forced to take a call.

ZP2 is a story of these friends and their struggle in the software industry, the trials they have to face in their professional as well as personal lives, the emotional turmoil they have to go through yet putting up a brave front---bending but never breaking as life twists and turns into a series of unexpected events.

What makes the book interesting is that it is divided into three distinct sections over a span of several years and with each section the plot unravels itsself a little more---the first section opens with tension looming high as Numerosoft is facing a threat from a mysterious source, the second part of the book delves into the past and brings to light the relationship between all the characters involved---strong bonds of friendship and love, gratitude and respect come into play in this segment and finally there is the third part, the climax where everything finally falls into place and perspective (bringing a heave of relief to the reader).

While on one side, there is the loving father-daughter relationship between Divya and Arjun which pulls at your heart strings every now and then...on the other, there is Nitin's story running on a parallel track as continued from 'Zero Percentile' (the prequel)---which speaks of the struggle of an HIV inflicted individual to live a life of respect and dignity.

Its true that there are parts when the story gets a tad bit confusing with too many things going on at the same time.Also the amalgamation of so many issues makes one a little disconnected from the attention each of the characters actually deserve.
Small exaggerations like the helicopter ride to Haryana, the hullabaloo everyone creates over Nitin's HIV status, the interviews and international fame that follows suit and the passionate chemistry aka love he shares with the lawyer fighting his case feels a little too sudden (to develop over such a small time period) and immature.
But then again, maybe these are the much needed elements needed for a box office hit, which ZP has a rather good chance of.

As the story proceeds, the plot thickens and eventually after what seems to be a bitter fight for control, power and success, there is a hostile takeover bid which ends in a dramatic climax.
Neeraj Chhibba's writing is simple and easy.Explaining how things work in the software industry would score him brownie points amidst those in that sector and I am sure they would be able to relate to it in ways more than one.
As for me, ZP2 was a quick read which slowly but surely picked up both pace and interest.

About the author: Neeraj Chhabba's first entry into the literary front was in 2009 with his first book Zero Percentile {ZP1) which went on to achieve the status of a national bestseller.Widely read and appreciated, it led to the genesis of his second book Zero Percentile 2.0 (ZP2) which is a sequel as well as his first attempt to write about life in the software industry.
Neeraj currently works with a high-end software services company , Nagarru Software, in Gurgaon.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

January 24, 2012

Book Review---"A Calender Too Crowded"

Book Title: A Calender Too Crowded.

Author: Sagarika Chakraborty.

Born in Kolkata, Sagarika Chakraborty studied law at National Law University, Jodhpur and is currently studying management at IBM Hyderabad.
She is an avid salsa enthusiast.
Apart from her contribution to the field of research, she writes light fiction and poetry for online and print media.

Price: Rs 295/-

Publishing House: Niyogi Books.

A smile crossed my face as i switched on my laptop to post in a review about the book i had just finished savouring.
The calender reminded me it was the 24th of January---The National Day Of The Girl Child..What better day to write about a wonderfully crafted book on the need of emancipation of women and awareness about their status in society than today?

"A Calender Too Crowded" is a collection of poignant stories that revolve around the theme of womanhood and their continuing subjugation in society.
It deals with the need for emancipation of the fairer sex in an unfair society.It reveals the ugly truth carefully camouflaged by a hypocritical society of so-called 'equals'.

The book is divided into segments based on the calender months, carefully listing out the special days heralding woman rights in each month---before proceeding to narrate heart wrenching tales from rural and urban India.
While stories like 'The witch without a broomstick' and 'When the Ganges ran dry' speak about the injustice stemming from widowhood and biased mindsets, there is 'The homecoming' wherein a woman is given complete freedom to make a difficult decision and how her heart helps her in sorting out the confusion.

Repeated mention of characters from The Mahabharata helps the reader relate an era gone by to the present day world and likewise the position of women in each.

One amongst my favorites is a beautifully written letter addressed to Krishna by Panchali, wherein she reminds him on how a sense of equal friendship had prevailed over her as she ripped her Saree to dress his bleeding wound, when he was attacked by Shishupal.
Her innocent questions like "If the same was acceptable then, why is a hue and cry raised today when a woman stands up for a friend, who incidentally happens to be a man?" makes one ponder whether we are really living in a progressive society or a society in which women's emancipation (that we believe we are fighting for) is something that had already existed since time immemorial and is just covered under layers of dust?

The myths associated with the glamour world is discussed upon and so is the concept of the 'nice girl' who deserves much better.
With an equally sharp razor edged cynicism, Sagarika speaks of the insensitive remarks passed by society on rape victims 'inviting' it upon themselves, by blaming it on the way they dress or the timing that they return home.
Topics like prostitution, dowry deaths, infertility and single motherhood are also woven into stories that make one not just feel a lump in their throat but also swallow the acrid taste of reality and bitterness that surfaces up from time to time, while reading---the reality and bitterness that comes from the guilt of living in a society where womanhood is still cursed and trampled upon.

"Daughter-in-law's can never really become daughters and mother-in-law's can never really become mothers, but when do they cease to be human beings with minds and hearts?"
In her story about the dowry system, Sagarika makes us wonder whether the mark of the vermillon is a reason for security or the cause for insecurity.

Not disclosing a single name (neither real nor imaginary) in any of the twenty-two stories, Sagarika stands totally justified in saying that each of the story represents millions of oppressed souls, waiting to be heard.

Poetry is another strong form of expression which has been successfully made use of in "Can you hear me, ma?', 'Beyond those whispers' and 'The 'positive' negativity'.
Behind the rhyme and verses lies the harsh truth, subtle cynicism and a hint of optimism carefully wrapped in a neat little package.

The letters exchanged between chipku and her ammi in 'selling a body to gain a mind' are indeed heartwarming and speak volumes of a mother's love---ready to sacrifice every bit of her life for her daughter's good.The realisation that it is only when the girl child is educated that she will be able to get out of the drudgery that her mother had to face and will be able to live a life that is different and better than hers, is something that should not be ignored amidst the sea of emotions here.Very cleverly crafted, this story makes a special place in your heart.

What i particularly liked about Sagarika's writing is her optimism---the tiny beam of hope that is reflected in each of the stories, no matter how dark and sombre they may be---a hope that things can change..the optimism that things will.
The easy language and interesting flow of the stories compels the reader to be pulled into each of the stories and stay engrossed.
Sagarika Chakraborty's choice of topic has not only managed to impress me, but has also fuelled the flicker of hope that in the age of better selling romantic novels and Chick lit's, there still exists young minds that choose to write about topics far more important and yet far less discussed.

However, I only wish some of the stories could have had a little dialogue exchange between characters as that would probably have had a little more of an impact on the reader's mind.

All in all, I really liked the book and highly recommend it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

January 19, 2012

A million brilliant lies...

You had a million brilliant lies,
when I asked if you missed me...
You had a million brilliant lies,
when I asked if you cared...
You had a million brilliant lies,
for every time you kissed me...
You had a million brilliant lies,
and at last, the truth to speak you dared...

You tell me now that you love another,
and that things are not the same...
You tell me you see a bit of heaven,
whenever she calls out your name...

You tell me she means something,
but think i am the one for you...
You tell me that you love her,
but say you love me too...

I have a million brilliant lies,
when you ask me if i will stay...
I have a million brilliant lies,
to promise to 'share' you this way...
I have a million brilliant lies,
to keep this wedding band...
I have a million brilliant lies,
to vow and hold your hand...

You chose to speak the truth at last,
and now I should do that too...
I have to let you know today,
that i am no more in love with you...

When i asked you if you missed me,
I could never believe your lie...
Everytime that you kissed me,
I would whisper a silent goodbye...

I had a million brilliant lies,
to think our love hadn't faded...
I had a million brilliant lies,
to tell myself we were fine...
I had a million brilliant lies,
to keep my heart from getting jaded...
I had a million brilliant lies,
to say that you were all mine...

But creeps in reality-through slits and cracks,
and paints the whole world blue...
And as she entered into your heart,
I fell out of love with you...

For a heart that loves always knows,
when someone else arrives...
and love is just a matter of trust,
not a million brilliant lies...

January 09, 2012

Life as a doctor---The Hippocratic Oath

A sharp mind should know to care,
a fiery tongue should neither curse nor swear,
for a caring mind is the one that wins,
and a tongue that swears is a tongue that sins...

"Mr Dattatray Dessai, you can go home today.You are completely fit for discharge" I said handing out the discharge card to the dhoti clad man sitting upright on the hospital bed.
The air smelled of incense sticks and talcum powder.Entering that private 'VIP' hospital room was like entering a parallel universe especially after having inhaled the smell of savlon and betadine dressings in the general ICU outside.

There were no follow up details to be mentioned and neither was there any prescription to be instructed upon.The patient had insisted on getting admitted and much to my disdain, the authorities had decided to humour him.
But there was not much a humble intern could say in such a situation---and so I had watched a perfectly healthy Mr Dattatray Dessai (bag et al) comfortably walk into the private room with a cheeky grin on face and an apparently long holiday in mind.

It was just the beginning of my internship then.After the tumultous 4 and a half years of MBBS torture, I had finally started living my dream (one that every medical student looks forward to, right from the first day of medical school) in the department of internal medicine.

...life as a doctor had just begun.

"I have already informed that i would like to stay here for atleast another couple of weeks" frowned Mr Dessai, like an angry tenant who had been suddenly told to vacate from a comfortable lodging.

A little taken aback by his rude reaction, i said "You are absolutely fine, Mr Dessai.Yours was just a case of mild diarrhoea which could very well be managed at home itself."

I was trying my best to smile but my patience was wearing thin.
On the one hand, there was this Mr Dattatray who had been seeking shelter under a hospital roof, in the comforts of a private ward in the ICU for the last one week for no specific medical condition.While on the other hand, there was a shortage of available ICU beds due to which a lot of patients had to be shifted out into the general ward as soon as they would show the slightest sign of recovery.

"Doctor, we have spoken to your senior in charge about this.You seem to be new here.The matter has been settled." snapped the relative standing near the bed.

He then proceeded to punch some numbers in his cell phone and talk to a man he addressed as 'bhau'.
All this while, Mr Dattatray was comfortably peeling oranges and popping them in his mouth.
The room now smelled tangy and soon it would smell of all the other fruits kept on the side table.
This man was a threat to the fruit kingdom, i thought to myself---there had not been a single time i had entered his room and seen his mouth at rest.

Visions of mafia had started drifting in my head with the utterance of the name 'bhau'.
I whisked it away as a case of over imagination combined with a rather generous dose of bollywood influence and thought it was better to confirm what the senior resident in charge thought about the case, before i said anything more.

"You don't understand, Priyanka.This 'Bhausaheb' is a very powerful man.He has a lot of political connections.Dattatray Dessai has been working with him for over 15 years now and is almost like an older brother to him.I cannot take the risk of declining him any sort of privilege, no matter how unreasonable.One call to the dean and my job can be at risk."

In a low voice, he continued, "Look, everybody at the hospital knows that this man does not require any treatment anymore.In fact he never needed any hospital care to begin with.
When he insisted that we admit him, we tried to talk him into being shifted in the 'observation room' in the general ward.
But the private room is the only room in the whole medicine unit which has a functioning AC and now that he is so comfortable with all the other VIP facilities there, he is refusing to budge."

"But sir, there is a serious case of Falciparum malaria in ward 115.We cant deny that patient intensive care.You know that there are only two interns in that ward and 80 beds there.He needs to be here instead...under constant vigilance."
I could not believe my ears.We were bargaining a life for a stupid air conditioner.How much sillier could it get?

"I know about that Falciparum case and i have discussed it with the consultants as well.Everyone knows the seriousness of his situation.His latest blood reports show a haemoglobin level of 4gm% which could prove fatal." He looked at me for a second, his eyes reflecting a helpless guilt.

"We had planned on shifting him on to Mr Dessai's bed....but..." he stopped with the realisation that i already knew the story.
Looking at the residents crestfallen face, i realised that he was pretty much helpless.
From what it seemed, the Dean was in a vulnerable spot too---the pressures of hierarchy.

I was on call that night and i couldn't sleep a wink.As i repeatedly called Ankita, the intern in ward 115, i was informed of how much Gangaram Shirodkar--the F.Malaria patient, needed to be moved to the ICU.
While we cribbed and ranted about the hypocrisy of the entire system, i saw Bhau Saheb's relative sleep peacefully, snoring away to glory in the cool confines of the air conditioned room which was now smelling of what seemed to me, a nauseous mix of fruit salad and sandalwood.

I had to wake up for a few RBSL (Resting Blood Sugar Level) checks at 5.30 am.That meant there was hardly a couple of hours left and all the patients were stable.
The only sign of instability in the ICU was the whirring motion of the ceiling fan in the duty room and the racing thoughts in my head which kept going back to Gangaram, who should have been there instead of Dessai who could have very well gone home.

Since i was not sleeping anyway, i decided to go and help Ankita in the ward by then.Asking the nurse to call me on my cell in case of any emergency, i walked out of the ICU.
Along the long corridor which connected the ICU to ward 115, i saw one relative of Mr Dattatray Dessai, leaning against a wall and talking loudly into his cellphone, like he owned the hospital.
On seeing me, he smirked a little---as a sign of acknowledgement.

When i reached ward 115, Ankita greeted me with a nervous look on her face.She was entering with two pints of blood in hand.

"for the Falciparum patient?" i asked.

"Yes Pri, I don't know what is happening.There are so many patients here.I cant manage all this at once.Rashi has called in sick.I'm the only intern managing all this commotion." I was almost beginning to feel Ankita would collapse any moment.Her teary eyed face spoke volumes of responsibility.
Besides it was unfair of Rashi to have not arranged for another intern to compensate for her absence.But then, we couldn't blame her either---Sickness doesn't come with warning, does it?

I took the pints from her hand and asked her the details.She seemed like she could need all the relief one could possibly give her.I had one hour and 50 minutes to offer, if all went well back at the ICU.
Walking towards bed 22, i noticed a scrawny man of about 30.He looked pale and emaciated.The charts showed a fever which was peaking every two hours that day.Gangaram Shirodkar 32/M, the case papers read.
Below in big bold letters, the diagnosis read 'F.Malaria' with the used falcivax kit taped to the paper, showing a line at the place marked 'F' for falciparum.
As soon as i reached the side of the bed to transfuse the blood, a woman who was sleeping on the floor crawled out from underneath the bed.
Adjusting her tattered but clean cotton Saree, she greeted me and asked when her husband could be discharged.
When I told her that we would be shifting her husband to the ICU for better care, she immediately asked me when that would be possible.
Snippets from the conversation with Mr Dessai and later with the SR came to mind, and I fumbled for an answer.
"soon" I muttered.

She said nothing.She just smiled like someone who had been promised life so many times, that she did not believe in life (leave alone 'promises') anymore.

Behind that smile, i saw pain---pain of seeing her husband suffer in the suboptimal conditions in the ward when he needed intensive care.
Behind that smile, i saw hurt---hurt that we doctors were not doing anything about it and still claiming that the govt organisation was there to help the needy.
Behind that smile, i saw terror---terror of the unknown, of the darkness that lied ahead had the sole earning member of her family to disappear, leaving her and her three children in the jaws of poverty and inhumanity.

That was when i couldn't take it anymore.As i transfused the pint of blood, i felt a hot shame flush my face.

If we doctors ignored our judgement skills and refused to take action on something as simple and clear cut as this, then what use was our medical education, our long hours of burning the midnight oil to study for the exams and vivas that we rejoiced so much on clearing, the Hippocratic Oath we had taken such great pride in reading on graduation day?
What use was a medical degree if it enabled us to save a life and we still refused to save it?
My chain of thoughts was interrupted by the sudden grunting sounds coming from Gangaram.Even in his sleep, his wheezing could not be ignored---a sure sign of respiratory distress.
His rapid breathing, chest retractions, weak appearance screamed of his ailing condition, albeit in silence.

As i saw the woman fold her hands and shed tears in front of me, a surge of anger came over me---anger at the hypocrisy...anger at the injustice...anger at the politics...anger at the indifference.

Leaving a baffled Ankita alone to deal with the patients, i rushed back to the ICU.
Some things could not wait.

"Mr Dessai, can i come in?"
It was 5 am in the morning.A sleepy Mr Dessai mumbled a lazy 'good morning doctor' and shifted his posture from one arm to another.
I went inside and switched on all the lights in the room.By this time, he was fully awake and covering his eyes to accustom himself to the sudden brightness in the otherwise dimly lit room.

"Look Mr Dessai" i continued, "this is a Government hospital and the first duty of a Government hospital is to treat patients who cannot afford treatment elsewhere.I am not saying that you don't deserve to be treated here..but the simple fact is that you do not require any treatment and you should be extremely happy about being so lucky."
He was now sitting upright and staring at me.I felt like a ghost and hoped that he was awake enough to comprehend what i was saying.

"There is a patient in ward 115 who needs critical care.He is a daily wages labourer on a construction site, has a wife and three children to support.
While your relative is constantly with his ear attached to the phone, his children are crying in the hospital corridors because they are starving.
There is an intern in that ward going crazy with the workload and still trying her best to make sure that all her patients there receive at least half the treatment they are actually supposed to be receiving, hoping against hope that her effort will be enough to keep them alive.

and do you know who is responsible for all this?"

He looked at me like a lost child now.

"YOU Dessai...its you." The bitterness had started to surface in my voice.

"You mean to say that I am responsible for all the people suffering in your ward? how many people do you think would fit in this room if I vacate it?" he snorted angrily.

I had to maintain my cool now.I reminded myself of the power this identity had over the authority and I still had 11 months of internship to finish.

"Well, you are a wise man.You should understand that its not of luxury or comfort that we are debating about.
One case of Falciparum Malaria, if admitted in the ICU can receive much better care and optimal monitoring than in the wards which has over 80 beds.In fact its not even about the private room or the air conditioner.
These comforts are of no significance to that mason or his family---all they want is to get out of here...get out of this hospital, so that he can start working again and feed his hungry children.
Unfortunately, for that he needs your help."
my voice trailed off again.

Mr Dessai was quiet for a while.

"Watch it, Doctor. Do you know who you are talking to? One call to the dean and you could be interning in some Godforsaken rural place instead." he said, in a haughty tone as he pulled the plate of fruit near him.

It was true, i had gotten myself into a sticky situation.But by now i no longer cared.

In a firm and clear voice i said, "Very well sir.If that is what it takes to stand up for what you believe in, i don't mind that at all.
Because no matter where i am, that one family out there will never forget me for what i tried to do but could not...
and never forgive you for what you could have done but did not."

"These are VIP rooms.You cannot depend on these.As far as i know, they are opened up only when special people are admitted." he muttered.
I noticed his tone had sobered down.I was not going to give up now.It was true that the room was labelled as a VIP room and it was also true that someone who the authorities feared, was considered a VIP.
I had to come up with a satisfactory reply to convince him.

After a moments pause, i asked "Mister dessai, what does VIP mean?"

"Very Important Person" he answered with a quizzical expression wondering where this was leading.
"Exactly!! Now take a wild guess, between a patient with F.Malaria requiring blood transfusions and one admitted for a simple bout of treated diarrhoea, which according to you would be more important to treat?"
I smiled and continued "You mister dessai, might read this sign here as 'Very Important Person' but I as a doctor would always read it as 'Very Important Patient'.
The abbreviation is the same.But when used at a hospital, it changes meaning and that makes all the difference."

The chair creaked as i got up to leave.

"Have a good day" i said and walked to the door keeping my fingers crossed, hoping the man would have a change of heart.
But this time he did not say anything.

As i continued with the BP (Blood Pressure) check, sugar level monitoring and morning rounds, i noticed that the lights in mister dessai's room never went off...they stayed on, just like how i had left them.

Tired from the night's duty, i dragged my feet back to the hostel at around 8.30 in the morning.
It was lucky that our new time table gave us interns a day off after night calls---I silently blessed Vithal, the ward boy who had helped us make the duty time table.
I slept the whole morning and woke up right on time for lunch.

There were 3 missed calls from Ankita and one text message waiting to be opened.

I could not help but smile as i read the text.
It was from the ICU SR and it said, "Dessai agreed to the discharge--told me to thank you..Falciparum patient moved to ICU.Good job!"

...life as a doctor had just begun!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A special thanks to KFC and Indiblogger for the KFC gift voucher---a small excuse which stood testimony to a wonderful day out with friends.

The above post has been written for the contest 'Sets you on fire'organised by KFC on IndiBlogger.
If you liked reading this post, do vote for it here.

Cheers to faith,
cheers to life!!! :)

KFC Fiery Grilled IndiBlogger Contest Runner-up

January 04, 2012

Moody 'water' colors...

Whispering clouds and thundering skies,
lightening dazzles the night so shy,
as I wander lonely on the street,
I notice people around me scurrying by...

The pitter-patter of these drops of rain
The scent of the earth much divine
The musical sway of leaves on trees
Wild flowers with a freshness that shines...

I meet a girl with olive skin,
with a smile that does not meet the eye,
a deep sadness she must harbour there,
her heart seems burdened by a lie...

In silence as I watch her restrain,
I wonder how she hides her pain,
and then it dawns on me--she is trying,
but in the rain, who can see her crying?

Next, I meet a man complaining,
who frets and sulks because its raining,
talks about the muck and mud,
like an angry cow chews cud...

I notice his shirt---its dirty now,
a car has splashed a puddle somehow,
his mood is foul, his anger fair,
it's raining, but he does not care...

As I walk by another lane,
I see a man with his lady love,
sheltering her from the lashing wind,
a match made by the heavens above...

Dancing and jumping mad with glee,
soaking wet and drenched insane,
I greet them, children of innocent age,
oblivious to worry or worldy gain...

Someone trying to hide his pain,
someone revealing his disdain,
sometimes a blessing, for some a bane,
it's a wave of magic---this January rain!


Writers note: There was a sudden downpour in my head, and as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rightfully said, "The best thing one can do when its raining is to let it rain" ;)


January 02, 2012

Hello 2012

♫ ♫ ♫ "Choti baaten...
Choti choti baaton ki hai yaadein bani,
Bhoole nahin beeti hui ek choti ghadi,
Janam janam se, aankhen bichaaye,
tere liye in rahon mein...♫ ♫

There are dreams from the past we wish we could just pick up and get into the present.
There are friendships cherished and tears shared.
There are stories lived and moments cherished.
There are realisations dawned and lessons valued.

No matter how far we move ahead, there are memories we might have to put behind us but can never let go...

Cheers to another round of 365 days.
Cheers to another chance at life.