Mar 20, 2015

Do not lose sight of who you are destined to be #1000Speak #Bullying

Growing up in a childhood that was divided between Dubai and Kannur, I was never introduced to the concept of bullying. Though I had a dunce-like personality that any bully would usually covet, I had great friends around me and no shortage of love.
I had even lesser encounters with bullies during my days as a medical student when I think about it. If anything, the closest to anything like ragging I encountered in those days involved me voluntarily walking into a train compartment filled with dental seniors and singing so badly that they squealed in agony begging me to stop (In hindsight, perhaps I was bullying them that night. Hmmm... I guess, I owe them an apology.)

No, my bullies did not arise until I had grown up.
The bullies I met were a lot different than any variety I had ever encountered or imagined. Where childhood bullies blended into a crowd with their school uniforms and water bottles, these people used religion and wealth. Physical punches of childhood were replaced by mental torture and deception. The weapons were different but the concept was the same - to make you feel inferior to them. To derive pleasure from your sorrow. To hurt you mentally.

What do you teach a child when he is being bullied? Some teach you to turn the other cheek. Others advocating standing up to them and calling them out on it, forcing them to confront their own personalities. There are even those who advocate fighting back, giving as good as you get. 

I did all of that. And I can tell you that it did nothing for me. Unlike the moral science lessons we grew up with in school, very rarely do bullies get an epiphany and actually change in real life, much less when they are grown up. Challenging them at their own game was a venture in futility; a bully targets someone smaller than him precisely because he feels he can take him on and win.

So what lessons did I learn that I have to offer to those who are bullied? Quite a few, as a matter of fact. 

Image source: here
1. Know that bullies will always exist. There is no age limit for being a bully. You and I picture bullies as chubby fat kids wearing school shorts and smirks. No. Bullies can be anyone from seniors at college and work to the very politicians and policemen we turn to for help. They can be relatives you trusted and strangers who just see you as an easy target because of a difference of caste, culture or religious orientation.  
2. Do not fight fire with fire. Bullies are looking for exactly that. They want to prove that you are just like them, only lesser. 

3. Do not lose sight of who you are. A bully may choose you because you are different from him - shorter, a different race, a different skin colour, bad at sports or good in studies - the reasons are innumerable. They are also irrelevant. Being different does not make you inferior to anyone. Being a jerk, on the other hand, definitely does.

4. Know who you are and accept it. Do not let the scathing comments of someone who has a beef with you get lodged in your head and eat you from within. 

Mar 19, 2015

The need to meet up with old friends

Being a doctor is no picnic. It is a life where people come to you when they are suffering physically and mentally and we have to deal with that sorrow alongside other factors that I honestly wish no one had to go through when they enter our doors – poverty, loss and even impending death.

The really good doctors can dissociate easily, not allowing the pain and suffering to hang on to them. That is a necessity if you are going to hold on to your sanity, really. With 80 – 100 working hours in a week on average, it can get really hard to find time to just de-stress and let some steam out. Often, the collateral victims are your family members, friends and the ones you love who do not get time to be with you and start to feel inconsequential.

One of the things I always advocate to every young doctor as a must is to make time for those who matter in your life. The inflow of patients through the hospital doors will never end; you will never finish seeing ‘the last patient’… but you will lose in life if you choose to ignore the ones who truly matter to you.

My old college roommate and I always make it a rule to meet up once in at least six months away from the hectic life schedules of our lives. We have done this religiously since the end of our MBBS days back in 2005. That is ten years of tradition.

Life around us has changed a lot over the last decade. We have seen loss and attained success. We have watched patients die in spite of our best efforts and struggled with the avalanche of text books and journals. There have been losses in personal life and missed opportunities which will probably never come back. We are harder souls now, the rose-tinted glasses knocked off our faces by the reality of life.

The last year has had its share of good and bad moments for me – ghosts of the past weighed me down while the uncertainties of a future unknown added to that insecurity. That is why I am glad that I have this system in place. Often we find a place nearby to just relax and take a break before heading back the next day to our respective work places.

This time, we chose to celebrate the New Year by taking an extended leave and heading on to a place filled with memories for us all - Mangalore, the city where we studied as students at the start of this century. For a change, we entered the state not as doctors but just friends on a vacation, meeting fellow doctors outside of work and indulging ourselves with the best of food that Mangalore always has to offer besides the luxury of good movies and long chats.

For two days, it was about sizzlers and cinema, family and old friends. It was about visiting old places we first walked by as students a decade ago and greeting old faces, be it the kind travel agent who used to book our train tickets or the person who used to record songs on audio cassettes for us from his vast collection. 

It was not about what we had studied for fifteen years of our life but what we had become over thirty. And it was a necessary reset button, reminding us that there is a life beyond the medical field as well. It motivated us to go back in a happy frame of mind, ready to face whatever walked in through those hospital doors again once we reached back.

Everyone needs to have an outlet for the stress in their lives. Bottling things up/working ungainly hours/carrying your work home are things that will eat you up in the end if you are not careful. You need to make time for the few people who truly matter in your lives and let them know that they matter, right here and now rather than when it is too late.

Take it as a doctor’s advice, if you must, but find the time for something beyond work. Be geuninely happy again. The younger version of you should be proud if he were to come across you today for how well you have balanced your work and personal life. Chances are pretty good he would have known what truly mattered in your life, don’t you think?

Author's note:
This is written for


Mar 11, 2015

Burning the boats

How many times have you stared at something that seemed unattainable and heard that familiar lament of “what if” within your mind? How many times have you wished you had the guts to break free from everything that defines you and just go for broke, laying your heart, soul & life on the line?
Sometimes you do not realize how close to the unattainable dream you were until you have all but lost it. You look around you and see all the little noises that make up your day – the waiter who serves you breakfast, the people who cross your path at work, the strangers and friends on Facebook, the opinions on twitter, the stories in the news, the whatsapp jokes – and you realize that in focusing on all of these things and being safe lost amidst them, you let yourself lose track of the things that truly mattered to your heart.

Sadly, sometimes, by the time realization dawns and you try to chase after what you know matters, the journey has already become one unlike any you have ever attempted before. And you are left standing at the bottom of that mountain wondering, “How do I make this journey? How do I do the impossible? When losing seems to be the logical conclusion, how do I tell myself to move forward and take the first step? Why not just turn around and walk back to where you were safe?”

That is when you need to do a Cortez.

In 1519, 600 Spaniards with no armour, 16 horses and 11 boats landed on the island plateau of Mexico. Their target: the legendary gold and Aztec jewels. Hernan Cortez, the Spanish conquistador leading this group, really did not have anything going in his favour. For six centuries before this, far better and larger armies had attempted to lay their hands on the jewels but failed. Cortez knew this well. Rather than begin an immediate assault on the Mayans, Cortez chose to stay on the beach where the boats had docked and inspire his men with speeches. He painted a glorious picture of the treasures that awaited them and how prosperous their future would be. He showed them how this was unlike any other battle they had ever faced and instead was a battle that would redefine their lives forever. 

He made them see the dream of happiness.
And then he burned the boats.

Hernan Cortez’s act effectively cancelled any lingering thought of a retreat by his men. There was now no safe place to go to should the battle turn against the Spaniards. The only way they were coming back to Spain was by defeating the Mayans and using their boats now. Cortez had thrown down the ultimate challenge to his men: Live the dream that victory will bring you or die trying… there was no in-between.

History acknowledges Hernan Cortez as the first man to conquer Mexico in six hundred years. He did it because he removed the safety net and made the jump. The will to win knowing losing was not an option helped his men trump all the logical odds. 

A time comes in all of our lives when we need to filter out the white noise around us and focus on the dream that is life-changing but seemingly unattainable. It is the moment when we need to stop listening to the murmurs that say “It can’t be done” or “Don’t do this. You are doomed to fail.”

Once we see the dream of happiness and realize what we stand to lose, we can take the first step towards it. And that involves giving up the comfort and security of the life we have led till now (our safety net) and choosing to be something more – to truly believe we can succeed because failure is just not an option. When the option to retreat or give up and let things remain the way they were no longer exists, then the drive to win is at its peak.

Recent developments have helped clear my vision and show me how close I was to a dream had I not doubted myself. It was far better than any gold Cortez would have imagined and yet quite rare and precious. And now – for factors beyond my reach - all is seemingly lost and I stand at the bottom of that mountain again, a familiar place.

Except this time, I cannot be the guy I was who shrugs his shoulders and wipes away a tear of loss. This time, I find myself asking the pacifist in me to finally sit this one out and let the inner Hernan Cortez out. I realize now that giving up the safety nets around me is the only way I can achieve the impossible. It is a scary thought and I truly empathize with those 600 Spaniards standing there at the beach, watching their ships in flames. But I also know now the value of what Cortez did.

It is time for me to do the same. It is time for me to burn my boats and walk away from the safety of the shore. Because sometimes, even if all the odds are against you, you find that you need to persevere for the things that matter most to you.

Mar 2, 2015

Book review: The Guardians of the Halahala by Shatrujeet Nath

Let me start by stating the obvious.
The Guardians of the Halahala is unlike any book you have read in the Indian historical fiction genre till date. The beginning of a trilogy, it effortlessly combines religion, legend, history and even one of the most iconic characters from our fables, bringing a unique perspective to their story.

review Godyears bookIt all begins with one of Lord Shiva's most iconic moments - one that requires not just the devas and asuras but also Lord Vishnu to work beside each other. The churning of the Ocean of milk to attain the nectar of immortality (Amrit) first produces something else though - the deadly Halahala poison, which is swallowed whole by Lord Shiva as per mythology.

Only that is not entirely accurate. A small portion of the Halahala was in fact siphoned away by an alert asura who hides it within an object. When Shiva finally gets his hands on it, he is faced with a conundrum - neither does he wish to retain possession of the object, nor does he trust the devas or asuras where safekeeping of such a potentially dangerous weapon capable of mass destruction is concerned.

The one he finally chooses is no deva or asura but a mere mortal - Chandragupta Vikramaditya, the king of Avanti, aided by his Navaratnas, the nine 'gems' of his court. Vikramaditya will find out that being the titular Guardian of the Halahala is not nearly as simple as concealing the destructive object as he becomes the centre of attention not just of his mortal enemies but also the devas and asuras.

What stood out for me in this book?

1. Attention to detail.
That is essential in any novel but almost paramount when you endeavour to write historical fiction because the characters already exist in some form in the minds of the reader, unlike unique new characters we create in normal fiction. And that is where Shatrujeet Nath shows his class. Each character is immaculately fleshed out and precise thought is given to world building for a larger narrative. There is a map at the beginning to visualise the world you are entering and a glossary at the end to aid you in knowing places and people from history who grace the storyline.

Feb 28, 2015

What if you gave me a chance to be God?

What if you gave me a chance to be you? 

What if there were no shades of grey in us - just white and more pristine white?
What if like the rest of the animals on this planet, there were no rich or poor?
What if the worst evil we were capable of was saying no to third helpings of dessert?
What if leaders fought their wars over chess sets and allowed human beings and innocent children to live? 

What if we could actually strive for world peace and attain it instead of preaching about it behind firearms?  
Image courtesy: Here

What if love was a disease we all contracted and cancer merely an emotion that we could control?
What if the good you do made you prosperous and gold & cash were just worthless baubles and papers?
What if we took a step back from the castes, creeds and religions and just saw the world as one shared foster home inhabited by over a billion children in love?

What if you did not need to waste the resources of this planet for wood and oil but could make what we need just by accumulating selfless deeds?
What if you knew your soul mate from the moment you began to exist rather than suffer the pangs of loneliness and fear?
What if you did not know your hands could be used as weapons?
What if rapes and molestations could not occur because like the penguins yonder, such a  thought did not even exist? Would our women be able to walk free then and share a smile of kindness without fear?
What if we all had the choice to lead a joyous life, without harming everyone we come in contact with and got the chance to die with a smile on our faces?
What if loving God was not a criteria to being loved by God?
What if God just revealed himself and we saw him for what he or she truly was instead of making our own versions of him and then killing to defend that version?

What if it were all possible at the snap of a finger and you just forgot you could do it, God?
What if you trusted me and gave me a chance just for this infinitesimal moment in time to be you?
What if you allowed me to be God, my Lord...

Authors note:
 “I am participating in the #TheWorldRemade activity at BlogAdda in association with India Today #Conclave15 “.

Update (26 March 2015):
This post was chosen as one of the winners of the "The World Remade" contest.

Feb 24, 2015

Book review: Twists of Fate by Dr Priyanka Naik

The Dr Priyanka Naik I know as a fellow blogger would write lovely poetry that was filled with such wonderful visual imagery. So when she told me her debut book was being released, my interest was definitely piqued.

book review Godyears

Twists of Fate begins in Mumbai, a city which over the course of the novel comes alive through the eyes and viewpoints of not just the author but her protagonists as well. Sharvari Joshi, Nandini Muzumdar and Parizaad Sethna are three colours of a rubik’s cube that form the heart of this book, their very varied backgrounds intercepting during childhood and the ever memorable teenage years before life takes them away in different directions. The three who finally come back into each other’s lives as adults are altered by what life has dealt them and yet, in each other, they find the chance for redemption, hope and solace once more.