Saturday, February 23, 2013

Horn Ok Please

Horn Ok Please

In this sad cynical world of ours, there are 3 people you should never talk too much to, at least before they do first- an astrologer, a doctor and a mechanic. Let’s leave the astrologers for another post (another day) and doctors I make fun of in every alternate post of mine, so today let’s talk about the car mechanics. If you have ever visited a mechanic, any mechanic at all, you know what I am talking about and you can stop reading right here. if not, read on to get enlightened. One fine day, fine in every other aspect, as I started my car from the parking spot and pulled out onto the street i happened to notice a damp spot beneath the place where the car was parked overnight. I usually don’t notice such small things around me, for my mind in the mornings often dwells on bigger concepts like my place in the universe and whether i will have time to breakfast at least today. But my dad who had come out right behind me, to make sure that i lock the gate behind me as i leave- an eternal sore point for him, had happened to notice the spot too and he started lecturing me on my utter unsuitability for owning a car because I don’t take better care of it and my mom, coming out to play peace keeper between us and hearing just the later part of my dad’s rant, joined in to scream, "no, no, leave the car and go by bus, don’t take  such a big risk" as if i was going to join the nearest grand prix race on a broken down car. I took a look again and to my eye it was just a wet smudge, just a little bigger than a damp spot and suddenly it had turned into a life and death problem for my parents. I was already late for work that day and as such i was loathe to  leave the car to walk and take a bus, so I promised to take it the garage later on after work and get an experts opinion on what ails my car.

That afternoon as i went in and parked the car in the shed, the buzz of industry all around me, i looked around for my regular mechanic who seemed  missing and i asked around from the boys working there "Babu ella?" (Babu, not present?). One of the khaki uniform clad regulars looked up at my question and then the cry went around the shed. Finally at the far end of the shed i heard a shout "hi door" shouted window "where is the boss?" If you don’t know it by now, car mechanics, just like doctors, have specialists for every car part and they often refer to themselves in the third part by their work specialty. So door shouted back, from where he was industriously hammering apart a, what else, a door "look there under the Toyota, he is checking the axle" or something like that and so window went off to fetch the chief mechanic from under the Toyota.

As i peered around the parked vehicles I could see something like a wheeled wagon slide out from under the lucky toyota which held the boss's current attention and he ambled along to me then, shouting instructions all the way to the boys in the parked cars around, wiping his hands on a piece of rag cloth that looked dirtier than the River Cooum and asked me "Enna sir?" (whats up sir?). i explained to him about the leak under the car. he popped open the bonnet and spent some time studying the innards intently and straightening up he said "have to change oil filter, air filter, sump, pipe and assorted spare parts" although I didn’t understand a word of what he said but i nodded as if I did and then added "that reminds me" (which is where i went wrong- the moment I could have kicked myself for later on further reflection) "One day last week there was a loud whrumph sound on starting in the morning but it dint happen again"  he peered at me suddenly very interested and asked "Was it a whrmmphh? Or a slow Whrumphrumph?" After vainly trying to reproduce the exact sound I had heard- mimicry was never my strong point- I left it to him to think whatever he wanted. He sounded kind of disappointed that I had given up the game so soon and so added in an undertone "I think we should change the fan belt also...a loose fan belt only will make that kind of sound" and I nodded tiredly, exhausted already at the encounter.

He then walked around the car twice- once clockwise and then anti-clockwise and shook his head in a sad way. he reminded me nothing so much as the doctors you see in films who are about to pronounce that the patient was due to die soon and you better get the will signed up fast. He enquired gruffly "anything else sir? any other complaint? How is the ride quality? Bumpy?" I scratched my head and muttered "now that you ask, yes, it shakes a bit too much sometimes". He stared at me with a disappointed look as if he had expected that I would wring his hand and congratulate him on his deducting prowess. Not getting the expected reaction from me he shook his head sadly and said "it would, it would definitely, the shocks are all gone, the clutch must hang very much, and the tyres are almost bald it’s a wonder that the brakes didn’t fail. We should change the shock absorbers, the full clutch assembly and all four tyres if you want the car to run safely sir, otherwise its quite risky if you take it outside on the highway. I told you all this last service itself but you said you will come only when the problem comes. Anyway now that the car is finally here shall I do that work also in addition?" and he stared at my face with a gleeful expectancy.

i was sweating slightly by this time as i mentally toted up the bill this was running to and wondering whether my salary for the month would cover the expenses or not. And as I wiped the sheen of moisture from my forehead, the mechanic who had noticed that slight movement, turned and opened the car door, leaned inside and switched on the air-conditioner and surfacing outside immediately, looked triumphantly at me and said "look sir, the air-conditioner cooling is also very low, i think we should change the condenser, replace the coils and fill up the coolant gas again. Summer’s coming up and it’s better to get the air conditioner in tip-top condition now itself". By now, I felt that the summer was already on me in all its merciless heat and before asking the obvious about how much it will all cost me, a question I was dreading the answer to, I asked something else to postpone the moment of reckoning "Will I get it by this evening?” He looked amused and answered as if he was talking to a child "Today evening?  I can only change the engine oil and break oil by this evening; it will take at least three days work sir. You better leave the vehicle here now and go away and call me the day after tomorrow and i will give you an estimate". I couldn’t help asking one last question then "why do so many parts have to be changed? My car isn’t that old" and he shrugged his shoulders and said "Ah cars these days!!! Anyhow I told you already sir, nowadays cars don’t last after 3 years and you have to keep changing to a new car after 3 years otherwise things like this only will happen".  So, mentally chewing on the cars nowadays concept, which was something new to me, I went home reflecting that pretty soon I would have changed everything in my car except the number plates and maybe the horn and should i ask him to do that too and get the satisfaction of a job well done. Or would he think i was making fun of him?

A couple of days later, with the car still in the garage and being given a complete makeover fit enough to qualify it for a beauty contest, i opened my door in the early morning to get out the paper and almost, almost stepped on a spotted tabby cat which was lying peacefully curled up there in the portico. As it hissed at me and fled i noticed that it had peed on the spot where it had lain and a dark smudge was still there. The watch man chose to wander up to me right then and told "Ah, it used to sleep under your car all the time sir, now that the car is not there it is not happy". Looking forlornly at the wet patch where the car had been and the cat had peed, i was also not happy for spending so much money on something which the cat had done.

P.S. On a related note, I wonder at people who own multiple cars and how they cope. I also wonder about bigamists and people who marry multiple times. Anyone who wants to manage two wives at the same time should first try to maintain two cars at the same time. And I am sure he will realize that one is more than enough considering the hassle in trouble free maintenance.

P.P.S. the Mechanic in the pics is Megan Fox –courtesy Google Images- and unfortunately she is not MY car mechanic….

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

And Thats How We Do It.- A One Act Play…

And Thats How We Do It.- A One Act Play…

Act 1. Scene1. Actors 1 & 2- Both Male

[A dimly lit room with a large desk and a well built elderly man sitting behind it peering owlishly through thick glasses at the chair opposite. A call comes on the desk phone and he grunts into it. A knock on the door and he looks up]

No.1. Hello come on in. please sit down. Now tell me, what can I do for you?

No.2. Sir, I am leaving. I have come to hand in my one months notice for resignation.

No.1. What? You are resigning? But why? Why all of a sudden?

No.2. It isn’t sudden. I have been thinking over this for some time. This job is taking too much of my time and I am not able to concentrate on other important things like family.

No1. But. This isn’t new to any of us right? We all knew what we were getting in to right when we signed up didn’t we? And at this stage of your career to make such a move is strange.

No.2. I don’t think so sir. I have gained sufficient from life. Now its time to give something back. I want to do something new and exciting. I want to teach. I want to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. Do my bit for society and the profession. So if you could just act on my resignation.

No1. Well if you really insist. Teaching uh? Where?

No.2. Well, havent decided yet.

No.1. Where? come on, you can tell American university right?

No.2. Canada actually..

No.1. of course ...can we do anything to help you change your mind? i will double your pay. If you stay.

No.2. still you won’t be able to reach the dollar rates they are offering. i am will be getting more money per year there than i can make here in 5 years or even 10.

No.1. ok...if you have decided than nothing i say is going to change you. I will be sorry to lose someone like you. if everyone of us goes away abroad....(shakes head)

No.2. can I go now? I have still lots of things to do to wind up here.

No.1. ok you can go now.

Act1.Scene 2. Actors 1 & 3- Both Male

[ No1. Barks into the desk phone. "Send in the next person please"]

No.1. Yes.

No.3. 'Evening Sir.

No.1. Come on in. please sit down. Now tell me, what can I do for you?

No.3. Sir, I am leaving. I have come to hand in my one months notice for resignation.

No.1.What? You are resigning? But why? Why all of a sudden?

No.3. It isn’t sudden. I have been thinking over this for some time. I am going to give up all this and become a monk.

No.1. A monk? Like in religious?

No.3. Yes Sir. A spiritual life is calling me. i am going to dedicate myself to it. i want to do something good for society.

No.1. your chief was here just now. And I will make the same offer to you as i did to him. I will double your salary and make you chief .

No.3. uh..oh..hmm...Ok... I guess i can always become a monk next year.

No.1. ok then. come back tomorrow...

No.3. And that’s how we do it.

[And so it goes]


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Joy Of Paeds....

The Joy Of Paeds

My first patient this morning was a child. And so it is most of the days. Every single morning at 7:30 AM, except for a rare rainy day, my first few patients are children. This is because, or so I figure, that adults can bear pain better and decide to drop in later after getting their usual quota of sleep rather than hurry to the hospital at the ungodly hour of 7Am. But when a child is in pain, anytime of the night the parents make sure that the child gets to the hospital as early as possible. And get treated for the pain. There is a rare pleasure in treating children because children don’t dissemble. When they are in pain they don’t hold it back and when they are cured they don’t hold it back either. They show the joy of it. I recently saw a TV serial called “Greys Anatomy where a character, who acts as a pediatrics surgeon, refers to the joy of paeds and I get it. Treating children may be a pain in the wrong place, when they are struggling bawling brats screaming at the top of their voices for mummy and daddy. Getting them to calm down enough to treat them is quite a tough proposition. But once you relieve their pain, there is nothing like a child’s smile to light up your day. I guess I am really lucky that way to be working in a children’s hospital despite not being one myself.

Over the years, many of my friends and well wishers have asked/scolded/advised me (repeatedly) about what I was doing so far away from my core specialty? Was I crazy in wasting my potential career growth in a side-tracked pathway where I don’t fit in? I have tried to explain the joy I feel in treating children but they don’t get it. At least, not many do. In fact even I didn’t realize consciously why I hung around here till recently. When I was choosing my specialty in plastics, the only consideration upper most in my mind was that this way I would get to meet lots of young beautiful (or wannabe beautiful) girls, models, actresses, beauty queens and I could date them all to my heart’s content. That’s one of the primary reasons I joined up- to be surrounded by beauty, to always be in the midst of a bevy of beautiful women. And it did come true. But once inside I found out that routine stales and there is such a thing called saturation point even for beauty.

And now, more and more, I have learnt to appreciate the simple pleasures of healing children because children are some of the most uncomplainingly stoic patients ever. When they trust you, they trust you to the fullest extent. And that makes the normal day to day life far more relaxing than in dealing with multiple adult patients who may or not benefit by anything you do for them but are looking for the impossible ideals as seen in magazine covers, mostly photo-shopped ones. Compared to that, the simple pleasure of doing a surgery for a child with a cleft lip (a harelip/split lip) with the knowledge that you are turning a disfigured child into a normal child by the power of your hands is a real reward in itself. Even if the surgery itself is so far difficult compared to other surgeries for adults- imagine a less than three month old infant who is the size of your palm with a split lip the size of a thread and you are seizing the two ends of the thread and instead of tying them together, you are stitching the two ends together end-to end, while all the while the blood is pouring out of the ends obscuring you from seeing what you are doing and that would give you a pretty fair idea of what it is to do a cleft lip surgical correction. But the very complexity of the surgery is the reward you get when you see the child able to feed/talk/look normally later on in life. When you take nature and improve on it. And this beats hanging out with any number of beauty queens and aspiring models. So I would advise anyone who feels burdened by the cares of life to spend sometime around children. It’s both enervating and exhilarating. And I have found that being around children is mentally relaxing to such an extent that you really start feeling child-like yourself. The worries and cares of adulthood are shed off in the company of children and you find that life is simple and fun. As adults we realize that pain is universal- everyone has some pain or other and no one can say they are perfectly happy with no worries. And we all have developed coping mechanisms to deal with it. Some cry, some blog and some behave childishly or at least try to be childlike and spend time with kids.

Which is why, when I happened to meet someone recently who said she didn’t like children, didn’t want children, forever and ever, I was to say the least, astonished and surprised beyond measure. This specimen who I had gone to meet as part of an arranged marriage personal interview offered the surprising opinion that having children reduces the personal life of a woman to taking care of them and as she wants to enjoy life to the fullest, backpacking and roaming around the world, children would be a hindrance to her lifestyle. I mean, I could understand if she had specified a given time period of say a few years- after all its a woman’s prerogative to decide when to have children. But to absolutely refuse to have children is a decision which is to my way of thinking kind of stupid. Despite all the extra work that having children means, still life would not be so much fun in their absence. And that’s the reason why you see so many long queues standing outside infertility specialists, with childless couples prepared to spend lakhs and lakhs of rupees, to at least get someone’s child if not their own to brighten their lives. Also most young couples nowadays are under the mistaken belief that fertility is under their control and they can conceive when they wish. They are extremely mistaken for scientific evidence shows that fertility peaks in the mid 20’s and goes down with every succeeding year. The longer they delay childbirth due to any reason- job, family or merely to test out compatibility the harder it gets to conceive naturally. I know this well, because my clinic in the hospital is on the first floor and daily I pass by the infertility department (ground floor) on my way up- and the corridor is filled by young couples in their late 20’s and early 30’s who decided to postpone kids for a convenient time and are now regretting that decision and missing the joy of having children in their lives.

And here was a specimen, who absolutely refused to ever have children because they might “cramp her free-living lifestyle” (a direct quote). I am a pretty adjustable type when it comes to negotiating, but I have certain non-negotiable's, certain do not cross lines and this was one. To contemplate a permanent life without kids, however much we enjoy traipsing around the world as a couple, having fun in the beaches and party spots of the happening places of the globe, is not a very appealing aspect to look forward to. Such a life would get very boring and very stale very soon, especially as I love the companionship of kids and of being around them and have always thought I would have plenty of them around the house. Some of these arguments I tried to put forward to the specimen before I realized that it was a waste of time and that I didn’t really need to convince this person when I had the option to refuse. Which I did. Better to be clear about the core non-negotiable's at an early stage than to find yourself in a divorce court later is my opinion. And so I am still looking for someone who loves kids as much as I do and won’t hesitate to have them.

So anyway to come back to my post's premise, the reason why I am still working in the children's hospital and not concentrating on doing my core specialty work is because  I enjoy being with and around children. So I am content with where I am right now and will maybe move on only when I want to go do something different. And till then I want to enjoy the “Joy of Paeds' as the scriptwriter of Greys Anatomy has put it so memorably.