THE COFFEE THAT MADE HISTORY

My footsteps echoed with a plangency, that almost scared me. As I walked, through the lighted but empty hallway, I could hear, the westerly winds, making the Eucalyptus tree leaves, rustling with fear. It was that kind of a night. My palms were wet with sweat and my heart was racing ahead of me. It was as if I was walking through the deep dark forest with the sunbathed leaves crunching under my foot, only this was the lighted hallway of my Operation Theatre. Every footstep accentuated the deadening silence that engulfed me. Suddenly, her giggles broke the monotony of that engulfing silence and grew louder. It was her trademark giggle and somehow it was music to my ears. Women have this nature of arriving from nowhere and imposing themselves on the scene. Perhaps, God has made them that way. “Meena”, I called in desperation.

Meena was the best Scrub Nurse, that I, a young and inexperienced Surgeon could have, in my graveyard shift. She opened the Operation Theatre door with a smile and said, “Perfect!! your patient has already been wheeled in”. I peeped in to see, the young kid, with a stick inside his abdomen and said in exasperation, “I dunno, whether the child will survive”. She immediately shot back, “It’s not for ours to think of survival. We are the means, never the end”. Women do that. They are masters at a refocussing back to ground zero realities and whenever they do that, God above smiles. You might think, “how insensitive!!”, but they love blurting out pathway driven truths. “The Anaesthetist is on his way and before he arrives, I have brewed some Coffee. It’s not the best in the World but will serve the purpose of re-energizing us“, she said smiling. “Gosh!! I need the coffee”, I thought. “How did she know that?” A million dollar question which men have been trying to answer since times immemorial. Women somehow know the onlooker better than the onlooker knows them. It’s a thought process that’s engraved inside that busy brain of theirs, since birth.

The coffee was soothing. One sip and my parched and drought-ridden throat suddenly had a voice. Meena was wearing her blue scrubs and sipping coffee with me. “Hows it?”, she asked. “It’s not the best in the World, but serves our purpose emphatically”, I said. “Ahh!!! the humour is back“, she blurted out immediately. “My coffee works, Isn’t it?“, she said it with a chuckle. I kind of knew by that time that she was loathing me back to confidence. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Women are like tea bags, you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Women somehow love to stand up and deliver in difficult situations, a thing we men always note but forget to mention until Valentine’Day or Women’s Day.” She expectingly asked, “Sir, how is it, that you are quickly able to sip away the piping hot coffee?”. I answered with a smile, “coffee is always good when hot because it fires up the fatigued neurons to act”. She immediately retorted back, “Isn’t this patient similar to the hot coffee, you are drinking?” When I gave an inquisitive look, she further added, “to operate on a difficult and diseased patient, takes courage but results in increased skills, which go down a long way to make you more daring, for such cases”. I argued back saying, “Surgery is an art, Meena!!” She coyly smiled and said, “Sir, Surgery is definitely an art, but Surgery is also a dare. For the skills to get better, the dare is essential”. She had a point there, I thought. Just then the Anaesthetist arrived and we scrubbed for the Surgery. We operated on the kid, and found a hole in the intestine and repaired it. The child remained over 2 months in our Surgical Ward and went home after that.

Its been 10 years since that day but it still rings clear in my head, whenever I am reluctantly operating on a sick patient. Meena’s words still echo and have over the years become a guiding light. Here was a woman, who taught me something, that no Medical College did. That eventful night, she changed a mindset for good. Now I relish a dare because 10 years back she proved it for me. She gave me belief, hope, desire and topped it with lots of smiles. For me, she has and will always remain a “Woman of Substance“. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I salute her indomitable spirit. Its always has been my prayer, “May her tribe increase“.

THE ROAD TO HOME – XIV

Chocolate?” asked Pihu offering a bar of Silk Cadbury.

No. Thanks! Pihu you know I don’t eat chocolates, don’t you?” snapped Samar.

Chill…chill, I just tried Ok? Just like I have been trying for last 6 years. But you don’t seem to be willing to move on.” Pihu stormed out of the room leaving Samar alone. She knew well that today Samar would want to be secluded. It has always been like that. Every year, 25th July would be a dark day. Samar would often spend the whole day without talking much and would be in a somber mood. Pihu knew what the reason was and she felt as much pain, but Samar never saw her pain bigger than his. Samar was in his own cocoon of grief and guilt. Not that he never tried to accept what had happened, but he failed every time. Life may not always give a second chance and that is exactly what Samar was regretting.

Samar was carrying immense guilt for last six years. He blamed himself for Sagar’s death. Sagar regretted not having returned home earlier than he did. He could never reason to himself why it took ten long years to muster the courage and approach his own family. So what if Amish was not his biological father, it never made Amish love him less. So what if Sagar was a step brother? Samar could never love him any less, not even today when he was dead. And what about Ruma? How could he abandon her? She had given him birth, raised him loved him so much and had saved him from his (so called) real father. What had happened if Ruma had decided to dump him in a garbage bin because she was too young to care of such a small baby all alone? What had happened if Ruma had left him to grow up with his smuggler dad? Samar couldn’t count his blessings in the form of his family and even then he estranged himself from them for ten years. He never thought about what they must be going through after he just walked away from home one night. Samar could never forgive himself for causing so much pain to the most important people in his life.

Samar continued to drown deeper in the cyclone of guilt. He regretted that the box of chocolates his mother had packed for him and that note Sagar had left inside could never reach him that day. Sagar wanted to tell him something that he couldn’t on that day when he walked away from his family. But alas, Samar would never know what it was. That secret died with Sagar. Only if he had kept his hurt aside and returned home earlier, perhaps he could have known about Sagar’s ailment earlier and could have taken him to the best of the doctors. May be, Sagar’s condition would have never deteriorated. May be Sagar could have lived more? Only if he had handled that evening when Sagar blamed him to be unfit in the family more maturely, all four of them would have never wasted 10 years of their life. Only if…. Only if… and more Only ifs! But regrets have no value. It was too late. Sagar succumbed to kidney failure on 25th July, six years ago. It was exactly one day after Samar had decided to take the Road To Home, but Sagar was gone, gone forever! His little brother had travelled to heavens and the family was incomplete once again! Samar did not get enough time to say the final goodbye! Samar wanted to apologize to Sagar for leaving him alone for 10 years, he wanted to tell him how much he had missed him all these years, he wanted to tell him how much he loved him even then, but Sagar didn’t give him a chance. Or was it destiny?

No Ma, Samar has not had food.” Pihu was talking to Ruma on phone. Ruma would call every night to check on her son and daughter-in-law.

Hmm… as expected. But beta, you have the dinner.” Ruma advised with a concern for Pihu.

Yes Ma, don’t worry. I have had dinner already. Ma, it’s been 6 years and none of us have been able to do anything about Samar’s behavior. I am worried about him. I just fail to understand how to take care of him on this very day every year. I understand that it was a very big loss to the family, but how this behavior is going to help? It pains me to see him carry that guilt because it is slowly killing him Ma. He doesn’t understand that neither you nor daddy holds him responsible for Sagar’s death. He fails to understand that Sagar went away untimely not because of him but because of destiny” Pihu was pouring out her helplessness to Ruma

I understand how tough it must be for you beta. But you are the only one who can do something really. Amish and I have attempted several times. But he never opens up in front of us. Never mind, don’t feel pressurized. Let’s hope that Samar overcomes his guilt some day!” Ruma gave up, like always!

Hmm… Let’s hope so! I will talk to you tomorrow Ma. Don’t forget to have your medicines before going to sleep. Bye!” Unwilling to discuss further, Pihu cut short the conversation.

She went to the kitchen to make one last attempt to make Samar have dinner. She took his plate to the place she expected him to be at – right in front of Sagar’s portrait in the drawing room. Samar had switched off the lights, probably to hide the tears streaming down his cheeks. He had clasped his hands together and bowed his head down as if he was apologizing to Sagar for not being able to save him.

(Image Source: Google Inc.)

Pihu placed his dinner plate on a side table and hugged him tight. She couldn’t see Samar like this. Both of them couldn’t stop crying. Samar was crying for having lost his brother to the hands of destiny and Pihu was crying because she was losing her husband to the hands of guilt. They stood still for, god knows, how many minutes like that and then suddenly something struck Pihu.

She set Samar free from her embrace, turned him around wildly and said,

“Samar, Sagar is going to come back home. He is going to be with us soon. We all are going to live like one happy family again!”

What???” shrieked Samar. “Have you gone mad? Does the dead ever rise from the grave?

Believe me Samar; we are going to have Sagar back. You are going to be able to jump into puddles with him when it rains – just like you did in the childhood. You are going to be able to do everything again Samar– right from waking him up to bathing him, getting him dressed and taking him to school, bringing him home, giving him lunch, making him sleep, helping him do his homework and then playing with him. You are going to have your Sagar back Samar!” Pihu spoke in one breath. She felt as if it was a Eureka moment!

Samar looked at her in disbelief and questioned, “How is it possible Pihu?

I am pregnant Samar. The reports say that the expected date of delivery is 15th January. Isn’t that Sagar’s birthday? Life is going to give us a second chance Samar! Sagar wants to come back home.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

And the news seemed like unburdening  all of Samar’s heaviness in minutes letting Pihu know that the healing process has finally started after so long.

THE ROAD TO HOME – XIII

The surging of emotions were so much that Samar got choked. He wasn’t expecting that he will find Sagar in this condition. All three of them were in tears as they hugged each other in happiness as well as in deep sorrow. There was happiness of Samar coming back and at the same time there was the pain of Sagar’s sudden sickness.

Sagar was unconscious for quite sometime till he got back to his senses after he was given the emergency treatment. Samar and his parents were waiting outside… sitting and praying for their child to get back consciousness and recover quick so that they all can make merry and celebrate as a whole family together after 10 long years. Ruma and Amish were just thanking God for bringing Samar at the right moment when they needed someone very close to be there to take care of all the situation that came up so sudden. At this age when they were supposed to take rest they had to rush to the hospital with their well grown up son in an emergency condition. 

He got back his consciousness but the condition is very critical… we need to discuss about something very serious and emergency as soon as possible…” The doc came out of the emergency ward and declared with a very serious voice which was unbearable for Ruma. Samar clasped her hands in his and assured that nothing will happen to Sagar and he would never let anything happen to Sagar. 

Samar asked, “Doc, may I just meet my brother once and then we can discuss about the matter… I will be looking after everything…” He declared clearly looking at the doctor as well as to his parents making them feel proud as well as relieved. And when the doctor nodded and went his way they all walked towards the room to see Sagar.

Samar’s legs and hands were cold and there’s a chilling sensation in his spine that he was feeling as he walked slowly behind his parents. He felt as if he will fall down. His emotions were making his whole body to shake in excitement. There was an amazing joy that was bubbling out of his heart with a feeling of fear and apprehension about losing his brother again. Ruma could not control herself and started sobbing at the very sight of Sagar in a very pathetic condition. She had never seen him so vulnerable and helpless before and her motherly heart was broken to pieces. Amish went ahead of them and caressed Sagar’s forehead and called his name, “Sagar… Look, who has come to meet you…” 

Samar tried to appear as soon as possible in front of his eyes before he opens it so that he can have a look at his beloved baby brother for sometime as he was scared to meet eyes with his. Sagar didn’t open his eyes immediately as he was in deep pain. He made a painful grunting sound…

Saa… Sagg… Sagerr… Beta… it’s me… Bhai…” Samar’s feeble voice hit Sagar’s ears hard and he opened his eyes wide right away and could not believe whom he saw… He was astounded completely… He was unable to express his feelings… Samar held out his younger brother’s hand as he started weeping like a child looking at him… And the atmosphere was very pathetic… Sagar was dumbfounded and was unmoved with the storms of emotions were ready to burst out of him… His tears were rolling down his cheeks… Samar bent down on his brother and wiped his tears with his fingers whispered softly, “I am back my baby bro… And I will never ever leave you again…” Samar smiled and clasped Sagar’s palms with his. Samar leaned down further to hug his brother lying on the bed and they hugged… Samar kissed his cheeks and forehead as they both wept in joy of meeting together after a decade. Samar controlled himself and sensibly so, as it was not very safe for Sagar to be too excited or emotional at that critical time. He excused himself after sometime and went to meet the doctor. 

Samar had a very thorough discussion with the doctor understanding the condition of Sagar and he had never ever imagined that he will have to go through all these all of a sudden in his life. Sagar’s kidneys were damaged and he needed a transplant within two days to live further. Samar didn’t wait for a minute and paid all the amount that was needed for the kidney and the surgery was fixed right away the very next day. The family of four was not quite feeling steady with all kinds of emotions pressing them harder from all sides making them extremely unstable. 

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(Image Source: Google Inc.)

The very next morning all of them were in Sagar’s room as he was getting ready to be taken inside the operation theater… He was very happy seeing his brother, his father like brother with him and his parents at this difficult time yet he wondered, “how come this man forgot every hurts that I inflicted on him 10 years ago!” He called Samar near him and softly said, “Thanks Bhai… Thanks for forgiving this idiot and being with the whole family at this time…” Samar listened to him and warned him saying, “Now, shut up kiddo… Don’t you know, ‘a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity?’” Samar gave him and the parents the hope that Sagar will be alright soon, before the nurse rolled his stretcher in the corridor towards the OT. Sagar showed his thumb to his family cheering them as he entered the OT and the door was closed. 

Samar was hopeful yet was regretting for his step 10 years ago which literally make the whole family go through such pain like this. But Ruma and Amish were happy finding their broken family coming together at last. Ruma, let her heart poured out to Samar… letting him know the secret which was hidden for years as they were waiting outside for the dreadful surgery to get over.   

REINVENTING SELF IS FINDING JOY IN OUR HARDTIMES

How quickly 6 days passed away as my co-authors expressed their hearts explaining how to reinvent self or how they managed to reinvent themselves with their short life experiences so beautifully… You can go through all the articles once again right HERE.

When I sat down to write my Final Note my mind took me back to the year 2001 when I was admitted to Manipal Heart Foundation, Bangalore , for  my heart surgery. That was one of the most dreadful time I was going through, thankfully I was still not married by then.

The night before my Surgery was very scary and dreadful, though there was a lean smile on my face. I prayed to God that night, God let me find myself in sleep peacefully either in your arms, if I die during surgery or on my bed after a successful surgery by your amazing grace.” Then I slept for few hours. I remember clearly at sharp 4 am in the morning a nurse named Sarah came to me, woke me up and asked me to take bath with warm water and some antiseptic solution in it. I slowly went to the bathroom and took bath as she advised me. After the bath I came back to my bed and slept again. After sometime when I woke up I saw my mom and one of my uncles staring at me. My mom was looking dangerously pale. I gave her a smile and she smiled back, but both of us knew that we both are acting for each other. At 6 am Sarah came and said ‘it’s time to go now’. My heart started beating faster and stronger,  I even felt the heartbeats in my ear. She took me towards the lift where my mom and my uncle had to stop. Sarah took me in the lift alone and we reached the floor where my surgery is supposed to take place.

It was 6:30 AM, I was on a stretcher and in a separate room with other patients waiting for something I was unaware. I closed my eyes and I didn’t know when I fell asleep. Suddenly, I felt my stretcher rolling. I got up and saw another nurse pulling my stretcher towards a room. That room was scary, at least I found it so. Finally I was taken to the ‘Battle Field’, Operation Theater . One of the technicians, placed the apparatus above me. I was praying, as I was terribly scared. I saw the wall clock; it was 8:05 A.M. After that I didn’t know anything else.

After sometime when I came back to conscious, I asked the nurse by my side frantically, is my surgery over? she said, Yes.” I checked my chest and it was covered with bandage. Whole of my body was aching and paining. Later, I came to know that it was not after sometime, but after 6 hours. My surgery took 2 ½ hours. There was a deep relief within myself. I thanked God and worshiped Him in my heart.

This was a tremendous experience, because during my first surgery, I was so small to think and experience about the seriousness of the event. Before this surgery Dr. Collin John (my surgeon) was worried about my lungs. Because if they wouldn’t have worked properly I would have been in great trouble during the surgery. But he thanked God seeing my lungs working miraculously as soon as he tore my rib cage. I was informed about all these later.

After an hour my mom, few of my cousins and my uncle came to see me one by one. My mom was crying as she saw me in pain. Good that I was not married that time, otherwise, I can’t even imagine how she would have felt. After two days in ICU, I was taken to the same ward on the tenth floor of that hospital. Nurse Sarah greeted me and welcomed me back. There were patients who became my friends in that ward and they also came to greet me. I stayed another 5 days in that ward.

I got discharged on 27th February 2001 from the hospital. But I made my home there in that ward, as we both Shyam (a patient) and me walked around with the nurses, meeting all the patients, sometimes encouraging them, sometimes translating from their language to English for the nurses. We had so much fun. When I got discharged I asked my cousin to bring few packets of Cadbury Dairy Milk . There were 31 nurses in the tenth floor ward. I gave all of them one packet each. The head of the nurses, sister Patricia asked, ‘why did you spend so much ?’. My answer was ‘the service and care I received from you people is more expensive than what I spent for you, thanks a lot.’ I waved hand and came out of the hospital with my mom and cousin with a sense of victory given to me by God.

I will never forget those NINE days in the hospital. I literally enjoyed and thank God for this wonderful experience in my life. Here, during my time of pain and suffering I found a new self in me. A different Chiradeep was reinvented altogether when I was walking around each bed in that ward. I found… I am in much better condition than many of the patients who were just lying there helpless. There was a young beautiful girl who was waiting for the surgery with no hope. There was a guy called, Noel who became a friend, died and I never could see him after I returned back to the ward. There was despair all around.

I was reminded of my agony few days before the surgery, after my break-up. I was cursing my life, questioning my God, “Why did you give me this kind of life, a body with so much of weaknesses and pain…?“Why did you allow somebody to reject me because of my heart problem in which I have no hands?” 

But now!!! I decided to stop grumbling and questioning God. I was given an opportunity to lead a pretty normal life, though little slower and lower than normal folks around me. I will live with a renewed mindset, for the people around me and for my God till the end. 

I reinvented a joyful & new self in my times of trouble and hardship… Are you reinventing???

Remember: ‘VICTORY ALWAYS BELONGS TO THE LORD’

Stay Blessed!!!

TURBULENT TIMES AND THE SPARK OF SUCCESS

“Sweet are the uses of adversity

Which, like a toad ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in its head;”

William Shakespeare, through the mouth of Duke Senior, in his famous play, As You likes It, Act 2 Scene 1.

Yes, you are right!……the same old words. Your eyes and ears must have passed these words several times in your career, although William Shakespeare wrote them way back in 1599, and not until 1623 did it make its public debut. Some of us have even read it as part of our English curriculum in School. Two days back, when the very same words, crossed my eyes, for the umpteenth time though, in a newspaper column, it forced me to rethink its meaning in new light. Turbulent times, if endured are definitely the gateway to success.

World renowned American Author and Motivational Speaker, Og Mandino, once said, “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes after many struggles and countless defeats.” There was a phase in my surgical career, wherein every Suprapubic Prostatectomy, i.e. Surgery to remove enlarged Prostate Gland , that I did was ending up with bleeding and eventually getting re-opened. It was just not happening for me. I wasn’t sure whether it was wrong technique that was causing this or poor assisting by my surgical assistants or a combination of both. Slowly a sense of fear crept in and it forced me to avoid doing Prostatectomies anymore. 

I could not sleep at night because doubts about ability and technique crept in pretty quickly. I called my Boss, to watch over me while I operate in order to catch any wrong steps, but alas! None existed. It led us to go back to our books and resources on the net and after exhaustive reading we made some procedural changes. Its been 4 years since that epochal day and not a single Prostatectomy patient has bled. Those procedural changes have become very popular among many surgery specialists. Had my patients not bled a better procedure would never have evolved.

The other day watching an interview of World famous, Skier and Olympic Gold Medalist, Jean-Claude Kelly nailed the idea completely. While skiing, some of the most treacherous runs on Earth, something remarkable happened with him. Out of the razor’s edge, where he felt his greatest discomfort wherein his limiting beliefs started to scream through his brains and tell him that he would never make it down, it was at that opportune moment that he felt the most alive.

He said, “The fear you move through when you go to the edge of your limits actually causes your limits to expand.” This is true not only of Skiing but life as well. That expansion leads to not only better work but greater performance. As Nietzsche said:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

Most people hide in their shells when the going gets rough. They retreat into their bunkers. They push away anything that’s pulls them the least bit out of their comfort zone. And sadly, in so doing, they push away their chances for growth, mastery and lasting achievements. The brave don’t run. The brave eat their fear before their fear eats them.

If that’s not enough, deep change is a purifier of sorts. Yes, it can tear down the very foundations on which your thinking and way of operating have been built. But just maybe those old foundations need to come down to create space for even better ones to be installed. And during the transition process that lies between the old structures coming down and the new ones being put up in place, it’s a real stress filled, uncertain time. But just maybe it’s like the transition of the Caterpillar morphing into the Butterfly. It looks like a mess but something beautiful is being created. As Novelist Richard Bach, once famously said, “What the Caterpillar calls the end of the World, the Master calls the Butterfly.”

Author’s Bio: Dr. Anupam Dey is a General Surgeon in a Mission Hospital at BISSAMCUTTACK, ODISHA. He is a thinker and a thought provoking writer.