The Quest

Comrades of the Internet! Hello. I’m sitting in the sweltering heat of Kolkata, India right now, almost lulling into a food coma thanks to the incredible food that I’ve been shamelessly gorging onto for the past few days. I’ve been travelling the past few days meeting with my extended family members-grandparents who won’t stop spoiling me, aunts/uncles who won’t stop joking around with (the awkward topic of) marriage/dating, cousins who won’t stop growing tall, and childhood chuddy buddies who I won’t stop staring at, for how much they haven’t changed. It’s overwhelming-this gush of pride because “Pari/Rimi(nicknames¬†in Mumbai/Kolkata respectively) is going to be the first doctor in our family”. This profession is as much part of my identity now as being a granddaughter, a neice, a big sister and a NRI is. And that feels weird, the weight of it, the ease with which I am supposed to carry this “role”. After the initial wave of reminiscing and food(dunno when that wave is coming down) comes this phase when everyone starts mapping out how far I will be, exactly. I’m going to the University of Buffalo, NY for a three-year residency in Pediatrics. I couldn’t be happier about this match.(for my non-medical friends, you get a residency through something called a Match-it’s kinda sorta similar to an arranged marriage-both parties must like each other). The days leading up to Match week were pretty friggin nerve-wrecking, I’ll tell you that. After the initial wave of celebration came the realization that I’d have to make a new home, learn new ways (including this foreign concept called tax?!!), and form new relationships. And not to forget the cold. Oh the cold. I’ve had the extreme privilege of experiencing sub-zero temperatures during my interview trail, thanks to the polar vortex. That’s going to be my life for the next three years! I’m destined for extreme weather boo (super hot in Doha, super cold from now on). I’d also have to deal with all these adult things like getting a new bank account, and a car lease and getting apartment-approved. Yeah being completely independent is kinda daunting Aru DUMMY. But I guess this whole whirlwind of emotion is what describes the so-called “rite of passage” in life. After a few months, when I look back at this post, I’d be smirking at the old inexperienced Aru who can’t figure out maps for shite. I’d have figured out gourmet Indian cooking (Im practicing I promise). I guess I’d even have learnt how to change a tire. Ok, I’ll calm down. Baby steps. I’m not alone. Everyone in my class, from my buddiesfolyfe to all the other students graduating in my year will be experiencing a version of all of the above. People are going to be scattered. Promises to meet up will be made and hopefully kept. New friends and people will be made and dealt with(lol do I make it sound like a chore?). Homesickness will be added to the list of things I don’t quite know how to treat. But for now, I’m enjoying my kulfi and giving hugs and kisses(major jhappian and pappian) to everyone I love and value. And reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Lowland”. She is an incredible writer. Check it!Image

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Can I put you in a box?

If I could get a penny every time I was told “Your English is so good!”, I could do med school all over again(not that I’d want to). I guess that having come from a “foreign, exotic country”, the fact that I am fluent in a language not of my own is mind-boggling. Bedazzling. Stupefying. Yes, my English is pretty decent, why thank you for the vote of confidence.

When we meet people from an unfamiliar background, we make mental resumes of them- based on their likes/dislikes, views, how attractive they are etc etc. I’m no different. I often do the same.There is no pedestal here from which I’m inking out my thoughts.

But having gotten the above mentioned statement many times,it gets me thinking: why do we put people in separate boxes in our heads? Does it make it easier to deal with them? I guess it’s not practical to sit down and analyse the background of every individual in our social circle;I don’t think we need to do that really. Nevertheless, having grown up in a melting pot of cultures for half of my life now, I’ve grown to appreciate that everyone’s pretty much…the same, give or take a few quirks. Don’t mask those quirks, by the way. It’s what makes you interesting.

Speaking of which, I’ve been staring at this elephant bathing himself/herself for the past half hour. yea, I need to log off.

elephant bath

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Do tears tear us down?

Arrite. This is my first ever blog post. In this vast(sometimes scary/creepy) world of internet. So If I seem to be rambling on , please forgive me(isn’t that the point of a blog anyway).My 2014 resolution is to a) Get back on sharpening my vocal skills and 2) Get a new hobby. I don’t think the internet wants to hear me practice my daily routine, so here it is. I can hear my English Professor from college (who I admire very much) speaking with his deep voice at the back of my head of how writing on actual paper and getting that tactile feedback is so much more enriching. Sorry Prof. I have no paper. Or pens. My penmanship, though is pretty good for an aspiring pediatrician (Hi-five if you can read my prescriptions in 5 years’ time!)

Anyhow, back to the point of this first post. Amidst travelling for residency interviews, I have had a bit of free time on my hands. Which is nice since the last few months have been nothing but major crunch time(Med school->Residency Application->Usual drama and shenanigans).

I’ve been on a movie binge recently. Actually not just movies, but rather different forms of culture- music, slam poetry, contemporary dance to name a few. All of these forms of art stir up various emotions, which is a) fascinating and b) something that is very deeply connected to a physiological basis(sorry, med school nerd references will be made. Just..go with it please?) ¬†But what I’ve been doing far more than usual is..wait for it-crying. not sad. not happy. just a gush of tears down my face. This happens in two different kinds of situations. I guess the first one-which I think everyone can relate with- is the nostalgic phase. Not going into this.

The second one, which is far more fascinating for me is (I’m going to call it-the Discovery phase). It’s when you connect with say- a song, a conversation or an affectionate email from a grandparent on almost a metaphysical level instantaneously and.. yes-Cry. Why? What happens in our brains when our senses engage with multimedia? Is it just a huge outpouring of dopamine and serotonin? (Wait could this be an idea for a clinical trial)

Haha no on a lighter, non-clinical note, I’ve increasingly found myself(sometimes grudgingly) to be a cry-baby. Friends make fun of me. Blame it on a certain time of the month(Ahem). What I’ve found is-crying helps me think. Process. And reflect.

For example, on Christmas Day, I went St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Av and attended mass for the very first time(I am born to a Hindu family but am more spiritual than religious).The entire experience felt unreal. I couldn’t understand what the priest was singing, but his voice, the texture, the context brought tears. It made me think about life- my parents, my baby sister, my goals, my struggles, my joys and my insecurities. It made me feel thankful to think that I didn’t have to think of far grittier things such as food, shelter or survival as problems of life. It made me feel wholesome- like mama’s tandoori chicken.Yum. I don’t even remember how long I was glued to my seat. I didn’t understand some of the rituals that people were performing there. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel more connected to the place.

Or another time, when I was at the hospital doing my psychiatry rotation. I was sitting in a focussed group where patients engage in different activities to help emote their inner struggles. I was conducting one where we had to write down and talk about the one person we get inspired by. We went around the table; a lot of patients including some of the ones I was caring for, were opening up, which was a great sign of progress. Most of them cited family members or dear friends. Lots of tears, lots of revelations. When we were all done, everyone looked at me and asked me what I put down. And I wrote down my sister’s name. Milonee is 9. She keeps it simple. Which is refreshing in this goddamn confusing world. But I knew that from the time she was born. So why was I crying now? Was it because I missed her(this rotation was in a hospital across the Atlantic)? Or was it because I finally realised that it is ok for me to let down this stoic wall of stability in front of my patients? Maybe, both. Maybe also cuz I was really hungry at that time (working in a hospital makes you forget to eat sometimes…woooo). But in that pool of tears lay a brilliant clarity of my thoughts. that it is OK. It is ok to cry. It is cathartic. It strengthens you. It helps you realise that this whole image of being strong/stoic is BS. Really.

So, the next time you feel like your lacrimal ducts are teasing you, just dive in. You’ll come back up with so much more.

-AB

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