LIFE ISN’T BUSINESS TO RISK IT

Apart from Good morning messages with very inspirational quotes, WhatsApp groups serve a lot of purpose than what meets eye.  In one such conversation with my childhood friends on WhatsApp, a friend shared this picture (actually this marked the beginning of our conversation, an important one)

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This conversation followed a fire incident that broke in a coaching center in Surat (Gujarat, India) claiming the lives of 21 students.  Many students died while jumping from a two storey building to escape the fire.  That was heartbreaking.  It was the scare of fire that killed more than the fire itself.  Lack of basic conformities and awareness as to how one should act in such tragic situations caused more damage. And that’s when I have decided that this is something which needs my, in fact, everyone’s attention as to Why, Who is responsible and How to do our bit to avoid or at least minimize the losses incurred.

Here’s a list of recent fatal fire accidents claiming lives of many and leaving charred memories for many more (all accidents happened in 2017):

  • Kamala Mills – Mumbai – 14 lives claimed
  • Plastic Factory – Ludhiana – 13 people (including 3 firemen) killed
  • Snack Shop in Saki Naka – Mumbai – 21 lives crammed and charred together
  • Rohini hospital – Telangana – 2 lives claimed 
  • Scrap market – Kota – 2 killed and 15 severely injured 
  • Cracker Shop – Rourkela – 1 killed and three injured
  • Illegal cracker unit – Jharkhand – 6 killed and 11 injured 

Special mention:

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Source: Google 

And then there are incidents exclusively where the property loss is humungous.  This is a pity picture which requires a lot of introspection – Who is responsible for this after all?

Electricity short circuit is the most prominent reason behind the majority of fire accidents. Cylinders or explosives going off comes next in line followed by other miscellaneous reasons that normally don’t find any mention in the list of reasons.  But does it absolve the “human hand” completely of its responsibility? The reason that was mentioned above are the ones that are apparent but the responsibility completely rests with people.

Non-compliance with the fire security rules, illegal constructions – squeezing and cramming of buildings in small spaces, No up-gradation / maintenance of fire fighting systems with time to keep them in working condition, No proper fire drills to the staff in offices.  Basically many “NO“s.

And the reason behind every “NO” that I have mentioned above is Greed and carelessness. People want to save every possible penny they could even if it means putting their and others’ lives at risk.  Complying to rules, training, purchase of requisite material everything involves cost and it’s something that’s loathed.  The greed to make quick and more money is the mother of illegal constructions, skyrocketing matchboxes (read apartments) where safety measures barely or rarely exist. And the basic attitude of “Jab hoga toh dekh lenge” (we will see when it happens) is something that must be done away with. “If caught for non-compliance we will pay something and buy our freedom” something that lingers on the mind (read habit) but not for once people plan future (in reference to fire accidents) with an apprehensive approach that we need to be careful and prepared for the worse.  And this approach is not just of the people coming from lower strata of the society with no awareness. But people with many sources of awareness at their disposal wait for the worse to happen before they realise and awaken.

Even with all the possible measures are taken unimaginable can happen, no denying to that.  But we lack the basic awareness to plan an escape in such situations (the first photo proves the same).  Probably because of not much attention given to this subject.  Parents and schools are constantly busy in ensuring that their children score highest possible grades and they don’t miss extracurricular activities too but subjects concerning their safety and security, be it self defense or otherwise  (escape plans in case of accidents like that of fire) are of trivial to no importance for them.  Hence no place in the curriculum, not even a chapter, workshops are a distant dream.  Companies/ industries are busy improving their profit margin every quarter whereas both employee appraisals (😁) and safety are not in compliance to their policies.  Can you tell me when was the last time you had a fire drill in your office?

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A photo doing rounds on Facebook. This is what I was talking about – carelessness and a bid to save a few bucks people are risking their lives.

These things seem inconsequential or immaterial but should definitely be a part of learning at different stages. If we are paying for fire insurance for our properties then some heed must be paid towards the safety of our lives too, isn’t it?  Talk about the safety measures to near and dear ones including children, use the social platform to spread a word, check if builders are completely complying to fire security regulations before moving in, yourself adhere strictly to all the regulations for safety,  electricity conformity is a must for every housing unit.  These are a few things in a bird’s eye view.

Remember: Your Life Isn’t A Business To Risk It.  Read, Talk and Spread the word for Awareness is the only key.

THE SURGICAL CONUNDRUM

Chatting with some med students, a good question was raised: how do we, as doctors, deal with the emotional baggage we encounter in our profession? It’s high stress, we see disturbing things, and sometimes we make mistakes that can result in harm to patients. The pressure and responsibility can be very hard to handle.

These stresses, if unmanaged or poorly managed, can carry severe consequences for physicians. Burnout is rampant among docs (and trainees, too). Doctors have high rates of divorce, substance abuse and have the highest suicide rate of any profession.

A normal day at my job is hard: I’m running nonstop for 8 to 12 hours, I’m constantly interrupted, I have patients making demands of my attention and empathy, I’m saturated with information and need to make rapid decision without adequate information, and I know that if I make an error or miss some important piece of information, the human, professional and financial consequences can be disastrous. It’s a pressure cooker.

And that’s a day where things go well. A bad day can be very bad indeed. Sometimes it’s just the emotional strain of dealing with particularly difficult patients. Maybe you go through a run of giving out terrible diagnoses. Maybe you deal with the death of a child. Or a patient who pulls at your heartstrings in some unique and personal way. Maybe someone dies on you unexpectedly. Worse, maybe someone dies on you and you’re not sure if it was your fault or not. Perhaps you know you made an error, and that you’re going to have to face accountability for it.

These are the days that drive physicians over the edge. I’ve had them, and I remember them so vividly even years later. There was the one lady with a gallbladder attack on Thanksgiving, many years ago. She had classic signs and I saw gallstones on my bedside ultrasound. She crashed and died right in front of me from a ruptured thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm. Her abdominal aorta had looked normal on my scan; the aneurysm was in the chest and ruptured into the thorax, which is very unusual. That didn’t make it any easier to go home and sleep that night.

So I guess my take on the question is not how do we deal with the psychological stress but how should we? I am not an expert, but here are my thoughts.

The first step, which most practicing professionals have already accomplished, is to learn what is called “professional detachment.” This is an unnatural skill in which you must suppress your innate sympathy for the suffering experienced by a fellow human being, pain which you may be personally inflicting. The first time you stick someone with a needle, it’s probably as traumatic for you as for the patient. More advanced applications involve you ignoring someone’s pain or personal tragedy while trying to figure out the hidden life threat. This is a necessary skill if you are to function in the medical environment.

Another way to think of the same skill is to maintain a sense of distance. Remember, an older teaching physician once told me, the patient is the one with the disease. This helps you remember that the patient’s condition is not your doing (usually) and their outcome, if negative, is the result of their disease and not necessarily a reflection on your care.

While this detachment is useful and necessary, it can be maladaptive if taken to extremes. First of all, as a physician you do need to express empathy and compassion. It’s part of the job. But the emotional demands will be overwhelming if not governed in some fashion; we have limited capacity for caring. My solution is to dole out my compassion and empathy in measured doses, as appropriate to the case and my own mental state. This is not a license to be callous and uncaring in other cases, but rather to be polite, professional and reserved, emotionally.

Furthermore, you need to understand that the professional reserve does not equate to repression of emotion. You suppress it, in the moment, set it aside to get the job done, but that doesn’t mean it never happened. For minor stuff it probably is okay to suppress it & forget it. But the bad things — they won’t go away on their own, but will fester and bubble up at the most inopportune moments. You need to take some time, when appropriate, to unpack the experience and re-live the emotions to deal with them. Maybe it will be just turning the case over in your head the next day. Maybe it needs to be more immediate. We’ve sent docs home after bad pediatric arrests when it was clear they were so upset they needed some time. It’s essential, in any case, to explore the disturbing feelings so you can come to a resolution and move on.

Many institutions will have formal critical incident debriefings for the entire team, for particularly awful events. While this doesn’t need to be performed formally for routine events, it’s a good idea to informally debrief with a trusted partner, superior or mentor. Talk through the case, review the medicine and the science, review your actions and outcomes, and your emotional response to the situation. It is helpful to do this with someone you respect, so he or she can give you valuable feedback. This can be over coffee or a beer or three; possibly better that way.

There can be a lot of shame involved when there was a bad case, even when well-handled, but especially so when you know that you made an error or may have. A lot of docs like to bury these as deep as possible. But these in particular are helpful to talk about, and the more publicly the better. This is not easy, but can be invaluable. We instinctively shy away from openly talking about our mistakes, but when you do you will probably receive a lot of support from your colleagues, many of whom have done the same or understand that “there but for the grace of god go I.” An additional benefit is that your mistakes may have been due to a system error or a cognitive bias and by reframing the discussion in an educational light, by seeking out the root causes, you can improve the quality of your own care and that of your partners.

Keep a sense of perspective, and try to stay positive. When the job is really getting you down, take a break, go out to the ambulance bay, take a few deep breaths and try to remember the big picture. We have a great job. It’s a privilege and an honor to be allowed to care for patients. We can sometimes make a huge difference in people’s lives. We have respect and status in society, and are quite well paid for it. Many people would give their right arm to be where you are. Yes, seeing the 10th drug seeker of your shift is a drag, but damn, it’s still better than sitting at a desk and moving numbers from column A to column B.

Sublimation is a defense technique that is particularly valuable in the ER. It is a form of displacement where the negative feelings are transformed into something positive, or at least more-or-less acceptable. The most common form it takes is “gallows humor.” Tragedy and comedy are deeply linked, and a morbid witticism can provide a lot of relief of the emotional tension that builds up in a clinical setting. Others may channel these feelings into art or literature. To each their own. If this is not your thing, find an outlet. I practice karate, and there’s nothing like pounding the hell out of the heavy bag — or a white belt —after a bad day.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, when you know you screwed up, when you know there was an error that harmed or may have harmed a patient: forgive yourself. You are human, as are we all, and we make mistakes. Take the time to understand it, do your best to learn from it, and forgive yourself. Let go of it, file it away, and move on. If you don’t or can’t, self-doubt and self-hate will paralyze you and in the end it will sink you.

One last thing: if you are really having trouble, get professional help. If you’re self-medicating, or if you are bringing work home to the point it’s affecting your family, be humble and realize that doctors can benefit as much as (or more than) any other patient from psychological counseling and support. Many hospitals have a confidential Physician Assistance Program, staffed by professional counselors trained to deal with the issues doctors struggle with. I’ve seen doctors torpedo their careers with behavior and substance issues, and I’ve seen programs like these successfully rehabilitate physicians who were in a downward spiral. Check with your medical staff office and use the resources that they offer.

EXPLORE IT, POLISH IT & USE IT

“An ore is a type of rock that contains sufficient minerals with important elements including metals that can be economically extracted from the rock. The ores are extracted from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable elements.”

Oops! Why am I talking about Ore suddenly in a week when we are discussing about Talents?

No! I didn’t make a mistake. Talents are like ores. They are hidden within us as the ores are within earth. When we discover our talents at some point of our life we find them in a very crude form. And when we keep refining it we as well as others find it to be very valuable and useful.

I remember I was such a timid boy considering my heath conditions. As I was studying in an Oriya medium school my English was not great. When I was in college I found it very difficult to say a sentence in English. So many times I was embarrassed in the midst of many. And I remember I dared to write a letter in English to my best friend Binod when he was in a different town. And you won’t believe the joy I had that day. But I had never ever imagined that I could speak in English and write articles. When I joined my present organisation I started speaking in English with one of my colleagues almost regularly. She used to help me and correct me every time.

But I would thank my cousin Khristina who really helped me to be confident in speaking English. She only taught me how to chat in yahoo messenger which immensely helped my vocabulary. And I wrote my first article in English for a webzine called Polvero.com which doesn’t exist now. A profile of my own on the web encouraged me a lot to write more. I read, wrote and read more, wrote more articles… The refining process went on… The ore that I discovered had come out as a valuable talent for me to realise it and use it for others. And while doing so I conceived and gave birth to Candles Online.

The talent which was hidden finally came to limelight. Apart from writing I also discovered I can compose music which was explored after my wife came into my life. I also explored that I have a gift of comforting, encouraging and counselling a broken hearted or a person in need of warmth. And the best part is I never keep them idle or unused. I always use them in my life because I believe God gave me that talent for a purpose and if I am not using it then it will be rusted and the purpose of my life on this earth won’t be fulfilled.

Let me tell you a story which is written in the Bible:

A man going on a trip, called his servants and turned his money over to them.  To one man he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, based on their ability. Then he went on his trip. The one who received five talents went out at once and invested them and earned five more. In the same way, the one who had two talents earned two more. But the one who received one talent[d]went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried his master’s money. After a long time, the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came up and brought five more talents. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you gave me five talents. See, I’ve earned five more talents.’ His master told him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant! Since you’ve been trustworthy with a small amount, I’ll put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master’s joy!’ The one with two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I’ve earned two more talents. His master told him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant! Since you’ve been trustworthy with a small amount, I’ll put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master’s joy!’ Then the one who had received one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you haven’t planted and gathering where you haven’t scattered any seed. Since I was afraid, I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here, take what’s yours!’ His master answered him, ‘You evil and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvested where I haven’t planted and gathered where I haven’t scattered any seed? Then you should’ve invested my money with the bankers. When I returned, I would’ve received my money back with interest.’  Then the master said, ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the ten talents.

My wife sings well and can really touch hearts with her voice. But she is very hesitant to sing as and when asked or required. I always remind her the above story saying, “If you don’t use your talent which God has given you to touch people then one day it will be rusted and will be taken away from you.”

Friends! Look deep within yourself. Explore the crude ore hidden inside you, polish it, refine it and use it for the best possible cause shown to you.

Stay Blessed!

SOME ARE JUST SO WELL HIDDEN THAT YOU CAN NEVER FIND THEM

It started when I was in Shanghai. My husband was deputed for an on-site project and we were there with our 1 year old baby. Thankfully, my son was that small that I had a lot of spare time for myself. I was searching the Google Baba about some online work from home options, when I found a site which was offering cash prize for some creative writing contest. I thought let me give it a try. I was an above average student, but somehow I used to score top marks in creative writings. Thanks to my English teacher, Madhu ma’am, who always used to encourage me to write in a prolific way.

“That was years back”, I thought, and so was sceptic to participate in the contest. “Participating is more important than winning”, my mind told me and so I decided to write.

The result was out and I was shocked to see my name as the winner. I was thrilled and so started participating in other competitions as well. Though I won many awards and prizes, I stopped writing once I was back to India.

After a couple of years, basically after the birth of my second boy, I was weaving the vicious net of depression in mind, when my childhood friend, my sister Prabhjot coaxed me to start contributing as a blogger. I was hesitant and my confidence level had drained out. But, she reminded me of my hidden talent- my writing! She made me recall the articles and poems I had written and bingo! I started writing again and continue to do so. Writing, which was my hidden talent, is not​ hidden anymore.

In the words of Susan Gale, “Everyone has a hidden talent, some are just so well hidden that you can never find them.”  I am glad I was able to find mine!

CREATE THEM, NURTURE THEM AND THEN… PUBLISH THEM

Around 18 years ago, on one of the nights this happened!

It was 1:10 am and I was sitting at my study table lost in my thoughts staring out in the blackness outside my window. It was quite some time since I have had a look at the watch and when I saw it – I was shocked.

“Oh my God, it has been almost an hour since I did anything constructive. What the hell am I doing wasting my time before the important Maths exam tomorrow?” I felt my heart racing and I quickly checked how much revision was still pending. I realize it is going to take at least 2 more hours which means I cannot sleep before 3 am. And the exam was at 9 am. Less than 3 hours of sleep before an important exam. Phew!!!

This used to be my situation almost every time I studied before exams. So, the question why was I wasting my time when I had so much study to be done. What was I really doing with my book open in front of my eyes, holding a pen but just staring in the black night – thinking? It was day-dreaming.

I was in a habit of day-dreaming anywhere and anytime. But what I dreamt about was something that’s always been very personal to me. I usually dreamt about some stories. Those day-dreams were something like a movie that’s running in my head with the difference that I am not watching those but I am actually the main character of the movie. Those movies sometimes were related to me being the topper of the class and most preferred student by all teachers. Sometimes the stories were around me solving some mysteries. There were also stories in which I would fight with some goons to save somebody’s life and people would call me “super-girl”! Well you get an idea – I was a teenager then.

It was some time during my 9th standard when I decided that I will write down my day-dreams (these weird stories that cooked in my head). And I started to do that. To my surprise, when I would write the stories down – they would turn out to be much better than what I would have thought of. Good thing was that I could read those stories any time without forgetting and actually could build upon them.

It was an interesting time – I had made a few characters (all of them had some part of me). I would make them do whatever I wanted in those stories. I would make them travel places, solve world problems, be courageous and strong. Most of my characters would always end up contributing to the world in a big way. Some of my characters were also scared of the world, some would just end up committing suicide.

In front of the mirror, I used to spend hours and hours enacting a particular character of my story. Because I just had to know how would she/he feel when a particular situation comes up.

I don’t have all those write-ups (only a few). I couldn’t maintain those because I usually wrote in my notebook, at the back of my school work etc. If I could just go back in time – I would love to preserve those little treasures.

This is how the story-teller in me was born. I love writing but more than that I love writing fiction. I love creating those characters and weave their lives up. I love wondering how a particular character would do in a certain situation. I love making these characters my best friends – these people in my head that I can talk to and understand. These people comfort me, they understand me and they even guide me. Some of them are really personal and I might never publish them to the world. But there are many of them who are ready to come out in the world so that people can also know them.

I was busy writing my own collection of short stories couple of years back. After my son was born, this project took a back seat. Someday I believe I will have them published. Though one of my stories has been published in a book named “Your’s lovingly” and few of them got published on webzines (including Candles).

For now, I enjoy creating stories for my son who loves listening a story from me before his bedtime. He loves to listen to them under the moonlight just like I loved creating them.

EXPLORE YOUR HIDDEN TALENT – YOUR PASSION

Hidden Talents….

The toughest part to excavate through your soul and find out who you really are or want to be. Talents are buried under the depth of your heart and it takes the time to be up and flying.  Talent is the natural attribute that we are born with. At times we just know we are on it, and at times with lots of ups and downs before we make it happen.Some times it happens that we knew it all the time, yet never thought or even opted it be a talent in us. A talent can be anything and everything that lets you be what you ever wanted.  

A possible way to tell you or discover your inner most talent is to find out what gives you the joy or the feeling of being yourself. I had come a long way exploring what actually takes my interests on a toss. I was someone who was completely lost in everything. At a very young age, I thought I wanted to be a dancer or a singer. Dance is a part of me which I believe in performing when my heart is at the best. Since I was an out of shape person, the confidence in me was bashed all the time. Yet thanks to my friends who thought I could perform gracefully. In a group, I adorned the talent I always loved. But with age, I had to dig a hole and immerse it into the deep dungeons of my heart, where I stored what I always loved. Even though it keeps peeping out at times to remind me that I can do it. Whenever music is on, my feet are always in a tapping spree, that invokes the real me. Like a butterfly out of the cocoon, I dance my way though.

Like other girls, I was never great at embroidery, stitching, painting, or something that really put the girlish side of me bright and notable. I wanted to be more like a tomboy. I thought manliness was something I could escape into to let myself stop thinking of my talents.

Later the urge to be an explorer struck my mind which led me to be a software professional.  To my surprise, the job never gave me anything other than losing all my confidence. Hence I discovered being a software engineer was never my talent. I could be average, but being average is not being talented or to be something we enjoy the most. 

Motherhood brought me into something I enjoyed in the course of time – That was Cooking. I loved the way the mustard spluttered as I put them in the oil. The fragrance of curry leaves, the smell of tea leaves, the baking aroma of the cakes and much more. I felt the joy of presenting my dish to my loved ones and seeing them cherish the taste of it. Cooking brought me into another world of joy, which I still pursue. 

Later with my boredom creeping into my mind taking away all the joy, I discovered that I could blog. Even though my language was not that great, I blogged. I posted articles which were just my rambling thoughts. Earlier my thoughts were the ones which I kept communicating to my heart, later I penned it down. It was a new revelation to my own self. I was admired and appreciated, which very well boosted my confidence. Slowly as I moved on, the writing became a source of income to me. Becoming a freelance writer, I explored that my imagination was far beyond what I thought it was. 

From nowhere to something was a great change. The joy was profound and I was enjoying every bit of wilderness I could write down. Gradually my writings turned into poetry, which was indeed a new beginning for me. Writing lets me be more passionate towards my life letting me explore more about expressing and even improvising my language. 

Finally, I felt all the talks I used to do with my heart all the time, became the source of projecting the new me to the world. At last finding out the true me became a source of my confidence. I reached the point in my life where my passion meets my job. Truly I adore being a writer. Exploring my hidden talent was close to impossible if I had no one to share my love and interests. Many factors became the reasons for my discovery. 

Alas !!  I am a happy writer.