I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Aastha

When the task came-up, I was not really into it. I thought our Charlie (Chiradeep) would choose whose questions I would be answering and vice versa. No, he brought his mark into the activity, by asking us to choose a number not knowing to whom that number belongs to and accordingly I get the questionnaire. When he asked me to choose a number, I was heartfully wishing to get Rajnandini’s questionnaire to answer. Woah!! I got hers.

Firstly, thank you Rajnandini. I loved your questions. They are quite thoughtful. Now, I think it’s time for me to start penning down my answers.

Rajnandini’s Questionnaire:

  • Apart from brushing your teeth, what is that one other thing which is a ‘must-do-without-fail’ for you every day?

OMG, is brushing must?? Oh-no, am I missing something important that I should be doing every day? Just kidding. Well, this was an easy question to answer. The entire world can flip upside down but I would never stay without talking to my father. Only network connectivity can come in between our communication. It could be only a few seconds in a day, but that gives me ultimate satisfaction.

  • What is the most valuable treasure in your life?

I believe that the most valuable treasures are within us (human beings). No one can steal them or destroy them. Memories, those are what I treasure the most. Memories make me feel hopeful and alive. It is those memories that really help me feel good about my life today and every day…

  • What is the purpose of your life? Ever given it a thought?

I don’t know if there is some enlightenment that happens to some people so that they know what that purpose is. I have no idea what mine might be …

  • How do you respond to criticism and ridicule?

Honestly, it depends on the critic :-). If the critic is knowledgeable enough then I consider it quite seriously, otherwise I take it on the lighter side. It infuriates me when idiots criticize. I usually think over what might have made them say/feel so, those might be my weak points. Hence, I work on getting better.

  • How do you unwind/de-stress yourself?

Work-related stress isn’t a problem at all, but if there is stress on the personal front, I feel very unsettling. I go on a walk to the nearest park, listen to good music or watch some sci-fi movies… If it takes more than these to feel better, I cry. It does help me get over it.

  • Given an opportunity to meet a great personality of your choice, whom would you like to meet? And, what would you tell him/her?

I would love to meet Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, our very own Mother Teresa. I may actually be speechless after I see her. I would love to spend a day with her only to observe and learn… I know she is no more, can I time travel ??

  • Relationships world over are getting brittle by the day. What in your opinion could be the problem at large (apart from specifics)?

The answer is something we all know. We only concentrate on whom we love ignoring those who are showering us with love. Virtual connections and texting are only making it worse. Physical presence, caring touch, a delightful hug has become a rarity. There are very small things in life we stopped appreciating.

  • There are different belief systems and different philosophies as to what happens after death. What do you want to happen to you after you die?

Death is the ultimate truth. It could come through the door one day to knock us out of our life without prior notice. My thought stops at death, beyond death whatever happens or can happen is of no value to me.

  • Science teaches us the theory of evolution. I’m sure you would have studied it in school and maybe even in college. However, evolution and creation are complete contrasts. Leaving academics aside, what do you personally believe in – evolution or creation and why?

I believe in nature and so evolution… I don’t think human beings can match the universe’s creativity no matter how hard we try. We do not even know about it completely.

  • What is the one thing you desire to do during your lifetime?

There is a strong craving in me to be loved and be understood at a deeper level. It would take another person who really wants to look into me, which is not in my hands. So, meanwhile what is that I can do??? One day, I aspire to be a torchbearer for a change, a positive change that would make this world a better place. I am working on it.

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I AM IN THE SPOTLIGHT – Chiradeep

1. Rajnandini: In the little more than four decades of your life, do you have any regrets? If so, what are they? If not, why?

Ans: Rajnandini, I know you hit the button which literally got me stuck and still at a point where I have to think well about what to and how to answer this question. 

Regrets are many, truly, but sharing them all might be fatal because we rarely know the end result of everything. Being human our decisions and responses are always premature ones so I won’t call them regrets though sometimes I regret about a few things. 

Now to answer your question I can say, I hate the time that I wasted away for unproductive and addictive actions and works undertaken by me to satiate my earthly needs. I have deep regrets for all those times that I had lost and will never get back ever again. However, regretting those actions are not fatal. 

2. Aditi Ranade: What is the toughest lesson life has taught you?

Ans: Tough lessons are many but one that I struggled with the most was allowing too many distractions and interruptions in my most vital relationships. I learnt instead of giving attention to many relationships/friendships it is better to groom the fewer ones. Thanks a lot for this question dost, Aditi.

3. Deepa Kartik: Do you like to be in the spotlight?

Ans: Yo yo Deepa, Bingo. Yeah, I love being in the Spotlight, love attention and being the centre of attraction. But truly speaking, it never drives me or controls me or motivates me to stay tuned or be focussed to what I love to do always – ‘listen & talk to people’.

4. Prerna Aditi: What does ‘a day spent well’ means to you?

Ans: I loved this question. I would say it is a very intelligent and interesting question, Prerna. 

A day spent well for me will be when I get to listen and talk to people those who need it desperately. Knowing and understanding a heart, a mind is my greatest hobby and passion. And I simply love and enjoy doing it. So when I get to do that and feel that someone is benefitted from and in my presence I feel very satisfied.

5. Prabhjot: How long do you think you can survive without your smart
phone and laptop???

Ans: Hahaha! If you can survive, then I can… forever. But if people around me have those extra chunks in their mouths then can I be with an empty mouth?

Now, ‘refraining from my smart things‘, if that’s what you are asking then I would say, I can survive only two days maximum. 

6. Geetmalini: When was the last time you tried something new?

Ans: Decades ago, Geet. I have become extremely dull and boring. Yeah, finding new writers and bringing them to us almost every month, but something new has not happened in my life for a long time. 

It is a very thought-provoking question and it makes me ponder about trying out something fresh. 

7. Saakshi: What three desires would you fulfil if you have infinite wealth at your disposal?

Ans: “Infinite wealth” is a flawed thought. Wealth itself is earthly and thus finite. 

Anyway, let me answer your question…

First, I would have bought the best house in the world for me and my loved ones. 

Secondly, I would have travelled all over the world.

Thirdly, I would have set up the best counselling centre of the world where the people in need would have come, enjoyed the stay, played, prayed together, interacted, got counselled by the best of counsellors and would have gone home healed and comforted. 

8. Kalpana: What do you do for recreation, for relaxing, for calming down yourself, apart from praying that I know well?

Ans: I knew you might ask that, Kalpana. For recreation and relaxing I watch T.V. or surf interesting websites for ideas. And for calming myself down I prefer to Talk to my favourite people, Divert my focus from ME to OTHERS and sleep.

9. Preeta: What’s the best thing you cherished from your childhood?

Ans: A cosy family, adorable siblings and cousins and a host of angelic friends at every stage of my life. 

Yeah, Crowd . . . People are what I cherished and cherishing from my childhood till now, Preeta.

10. Aastha: What is your definition of happiness?

Ans: Why does my sister always ask me difficult questions??? I can only try what I know and feel.

Amid all kinds of pain, suffering, problems and sorrows it is very difficult to say that I am happy or I am capable of defining happiness… As it is not just an English word but a condition of a human.

Yet, I would say I still managed to be happy most of the time despite my ailments, my problems and my sorrows… Because I stay content with what I have, I love and believe in the act of giving than receiving, I don’t compare myself with others and most importantly I depend on and trust in God for everything. 

So answering the question I would define happiness as “a state of being contented without comparing or living with self-pity but leading a generous life, trusting in the God Almighty in every situation“.   

Hope, I have answered all the questions satisfactorily. I would love to hear from all of my examiners and know how much I scored in the exam. 😛

Thanks to all of you who asked me these beautiful questions. I thoroughly enjoyed answering them.

Stay blessed!

AVOID DEPENDENCY TO HANDLE PRESSURE WELL

I am worst at handling pressures. Yeah, you might think how I can say that being a leader. But it is a truth about me that I shout a lot, get bogged down a lot and get stressed out easily when I am under a pressure situation.

Yet, in certain occasions I am very strong and handle the pressures much better than how other can handle in the same situation. So my behaviours vary from different pressure situations. In some cases I struggle and in some other I show the real character.

Negative life situations always have negative or positive effects on a person. It will either make you or break you. And it is different than daily pressures of life. I am good at handling long term pressure situation but not well at managing a daily one. The reason could be that I am accustomed to doing things slowly and when a pressure situation demands to do things or accomplish something quickly I tend to get worried or stressed out. When I am asked to do things or decide things right away or quickly it’s very difficult for me to come to a conclusion or manage it. And it is more pathetic when your decision is dependent on people. I love to do things at my own pace and deciding on my own. I hate pressure cooker situations. So I take precautions. Let me give an example…

It was last Sunday in the afternoon when I received the news of my granny’s death. And there are very few tickets available next morning on Monday and if we had to travel in the same night we had to catch a bus as there were no train tickets available. Now I was depending on three persons around me to take a decision.

First one was my wife who was confused whether to go with me or not.

Second one was my brother who was confused when to go considering his hospital duties.

Third one was my uncle who actually was ready to help me out but wants to go according to his schedules.

My wife knows how irritated I was that evening. I was scolding and was frustrated and the whole evening I kept discussing and struggling to take a decision till I decided I will go on my own and bought the ticket by-passing everyone else. I travelled to Cuttack comfortably and alone at the end.

I learnt one lesson from the whole pressure situation – “Never to be dependent on others when I can accomplish something very important on my own.”

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.

EVEN WHEN…

Even a cactus can grow up
to be beautiful with all its
prickly thorns and
thick petal flowers,
alone in the desert
with no nurture or
refreshing water showers.
With no gardener
to take care of it,
or some bird to
come and sit on it.
No animals to
gnaw on its leaves,
no prayers to be offered
Around, with any beliefs.
Strong and alone in the
barren land it stands,
taking in all it can get yet
happy playing with hot sands.

Even the most beautiful
tchotchke seems unnecessary
at times, feels like it’s just
taking up space for something
better, something nice.
But all it is doing is beautifying
the corner, not expecting
to be admired all the
time in spite of being a loner.

Even a festoon gets
unnoticed albeit hanging
on top of the main entrance,
just dangling, looking
beautiful, not causing
anyone, any hindrance.
Not bothering if anyone
pays any heed to it ever,
nor expecting to be
witnessed on some
auspicious occasion, never.
Sun, rain, wind or cold, any
weather not causing it to
bow down low,
on the top, the glossed
over festoon hangs,
with pride aglow.

Even with a worthy life we
tend to astray from our path,
not trying to move forward,
clinging on to our inglorious past.
Loving, cherishing the present we
ought to live despite any strife,
standing tall and moving forward
with all love’s glory in life.

ATLAS ON MY SHOULDER

Sometimes I assume
I am carrying problems
on my shoulder
rather than the actual weight
my shoulders hunch
as nobody tells them to relax
my world is an emotional baggage
of what I don’t see
and what I see
yet I have chosen not to unload
I have become used
with this excess baggage that
it has become comfortable to carry
I have forgotten to enjoy a ride
with less baggage…

Sometimes I carry a hidden baggage
of anger, fear, and sadness
that sneaks up on me
and ambush me out of nowhere…

I want to get rid
of that old baggage
that I carry every day
on my shoulders
I wrote a list of my impacts
and tucked it into my purse
little did I realize that
the old baggage I am carrying
day in and day out
has been holding me back
from maximizing my potential…

I finally gathered the courage
to let this emotional baggage go
I tore the list into pieces
and dumped into the trash
my shoulder is
no more burdened
with the weight
my heart is light
like an infant smile
I am moving forward
less weighted down
by the past…

FALL IN LOVE 💘

💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝💝

There are those who fall
and then those who crumble in love;
Those who want it but never feel
Those who felt it but never said
Those who said but walked away
Those who left but chose to return
Those who stayed but couldn’t last
Those who stood by but couldn’t let go
Those who chose to let go and got so hurt
Those who chose to hurt but stuck to strive
Those who fought for it but did not survive
Those who learnt to endure in all the squabbles
Those who spewed words but ended with a kiss
Those who never spoke but lived together
Those who gelled together but didn’t get each other
Those who merged but were not blessed enough
And then there were those
who were blessed and lived happily ever after.

It matters not
This love or that love
His love or her love
Gelled in love or broken in love
Rise in love or fall in love
It began for reasons unknown
and ends with fate uncertain.

Love is bliss
blessed are those
who’ve known love.

💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞💞