In times of crisis

The true test of atheism is whether you turn to your ex-religious beliefs in a moment of crisis or not.

A few months ago I discovered a lump on my thigh while bathing. Being the person I am, I promptly ignored it and got back to having fun and raising my kids and reading books. Until it turned into too big a problem to be ignored – big enough to show through my tracks and tights. So being the ostrich I am, I took to wearing skirts and dresses. Until I realised that winter was coming and I really needed to wear some jeans.

So I went and got it checked up and sure enough it turned out to be a tumor. 99% benign, the doctor assured me, but needs to be removed anyway because it might grow to a stage where it will be beyond hideous. And when removed, leave behind a hole in the leg that might require the insertion of a pipe to drain it.

I checked my schedule, found a day that was fairly suitable and checked myself into hospital. And that’s when my hands began to freeze and I began to shiver. I have a 9 year old and a 7 year old. They’re too young to be motherless and that idiot OA – could he be trusted with finding a good replacement? Sure he knew how to pick a good wife but would she be a good mother to my babies?

Around me the family panicked and began to pray. The tumor was to be excised and sent for biopsy. The moment I entered the hospital, I was mentally back at that place where I delivered my two babies via cesarean. I was still a believer in those days and so I had prayed. And as I prayed I felt more and more panicky – hell I was a shivering blathering mess by the time I got on the OT. Each time they did something that caused me pain – gave me an injection, shifted me, I wondered where this God was who I was wasting my breath on. When they removed the Bean they also took out a tumour and once again I asked why God had not protected me but had sent me this tumor to deliver along with a child.

The years went by and I questioned religion, faith, God, and people failed to come up with answers. And so it came to pass that I was once more on the operation table and this time, I did not have a god holding my hand. I was alone. Holding my own hand. Believing only in my own ability to stay calm and in the expertise and intelligence of the doctors handling my case. (An aside – when people go in to hospital and a surgery is successful, they thank God. When it goes wrong, they blame the doctors for their incompetence. Why?)

And strangely I felt more calm and in control. I just had to trust the doctors to do their job well and cooperate with them. I joked with the doctors about being ready to kill for a cup of coffee (I’d been fasting for more than 12 hours by the time the surgery began) and the next moment I was out like a light. When I woke up to a pain in my thigh I realised it was all over. Of course being the control freak I am, I was lucid and clear eyed the moment I came to. No talking rubbish, no babbling – in fact I immediately began to monitor my glucose. And pestered them to send me back to my room. When they finally found the staff to do it, the idiots took me to the wrong floor and finally I sat up on the stretcher to guide them and sent them into a tizzy! Dad says he heard someone getting really mad in the corridor and knew I was being wheeled back.

Twenty four hours later I was let out of the hospital and I came home, ready to take care of my body and my family.

We sat around the dining table that night, discussing religion, God, belief systems and quantum theory. Dad had just had a long debate with his own very religious siblings over this matter a few days ago and he summed it up with – ‘Religion is just a bunch of adults squabbling over whose mama’s cake is the best.’

The Brat looked up from his chicken and said, ‘How can you say your mama’s cake is the best when you’ve not tasted anyone else’s mama’s cake?’

Exactly. A child sees what adults refuse to see. How is it that the religion you had the fortune to be born into, is the one correct one? I’d be more likely to believe you if you’d tried and converted to another based on its merits.

And that’s how it is. I’ve tasted one cake, the OA the other… and then we both sampled a slice of atheism and somehow it fits our personalities and temperaments a lot better than anything else ever has.

I’m fine, thank you for asking. Still finding it a little hard to walk, sit, lift and also my throat hurts from the pipe they inserted. But I’m on the mend and yes, I’ll update you once the biopsy results are out. Stay cool!

More on the knee

It’s been a while since I quit my job and began to run the knee tests. A set of blood tests that cost me Rs 8000 *faints*, bone density tests and appointments with the top doctor in the city. Thank you New Mum on the Block. The appointments don’t  come easy though and I had a one month plus wait but it was worth it.

The problem is simple, the cartilage and bone are wearing out due to the lack of Vitamin D. I also seem to have an excess of Vitamin B 12 which is supposed to be water soluble. He doesn’t know what to do about that. The dermatologist I am seeing for my pimply face was boggled by it too. Excess Vit B 12? Never come across it before. And so I turn to you as usual, wise internetz. Ever been diagnosed with it? What does it do to your system? Which of my ailments can I blame it for?

That said, I’m walking at least once a day for an hour or so. Building up strength in the legs so that the pressure goes off the kneecap. I am avoiding the stairs (which isn’t easy in a duplex). I am not better yet, but getting away from the toxic work atmosphere has helped greatly. I continue to work with the publication along with doing other freelance work so its pretty much win-win. And here I thought that was never possible.

What’s the plan?

Since I began my notice period and began to tell people that I was quitting, I’ve had to deal with one question on a regular basis – What’s the plan? What next?

I don’t have one. I got a couple of job offers within days of putting in my papers (the grapevine is really efficient!) and regretfully turned them down. I really don’t feel up to it right now. My knee is a mess, my skin looks like a nuclear testing site and  various joints just go pop as I twist and turn. But most of all, it is in the head. I don’t feel like committing. On the first day of being unemployed I got a desperate freelance request from a publication and did the story out of a sense of honour. But as I rushed around making calls and trying to make appointments I suddenly realised it was not what I wanted. Oh I wanted to work alright, but not like this. Then how? I really don’t know.

A lot has happened in the last two weeks that I shall later blog about. Suffice to say I’ve been travelling, I’ve lost weight and have rediscovered my collarbones (yayy!!), the knee is uncertain, the skin is worse, the kids school is off for almost 3 weeks thanks to the CWG and that gives me a lot of flexibility.

The only thing I’ve realised is that I want the next month or so off to revisit my life and my health situation. That, and the fact that I don’t want to commit to anyone other than family. For work, deadlines, anything. Nothing. I’ve had a hellish two years trying to keep every ball up in the air, spend time with the kids, do a good job at work, entertain, socialise, make sure the fans are clean and the corners well dusted. But now I’m just going to sit back and let it all go for a while.

So for now, the plan is that there is no plan.

It’s been a while

.. since we had some hard core mommy-talk around here. I see too many nice happy young people getting drawn to the blog. So I figured its time to do some mommy talk and scare them away.

Here’s the first piece of gyan, via Mona. A piece on how artificial preservatives and additives cause a variety of behavioural and health problems in children. Now I am no cook, but the one thing I am damn particular about, is not giving the kid packaged food. I ‘ve got by on bad days with mashed boiled potato with butter, ghee and rice, chapatis and chicken and other such options. I have noticed the kids get more upset when I feed them anything with preservatives, but I’ve always attributed it to the fact that I only resort to such food when we’re travelling or visiting someone and the meal gets late. Which means they are anyway cranky, tired, sleepy and hungry when I give them a burger and fries. Anyhow, after reading this I’ve strengthened my resolve and am hoping to do a better job of managing their meals, an area where I feel like a complete failure.

The second one is via Jedi on how children are not playing outdoors as much as they should. Again, I wanted to show it to the OA who doesn’t really debate it with me since I am primary caregiver, but does wonder why I am not keen on the kids playing on youtube all day and learning to put their own CDs on. I’m sick of preening parents who at 2 were proudly showing me how their child can switch on TV. Yeah, well, mine was telling me about the sabre toothed tiger and the elk. And I’m sure they’ll eventually see past my wiles and figure the TV out. As of now we keep it away by the simple method of it being set on a chest of drawers too high up for them to see the player at all. And frankly they are too busy to put up a fight.  It’s about children putting in almost 40 hours a week (a full work week!) on various screens – be they televisions, computers or phones.  I know children pick up fast  – the kids are constantly messing with my iPhone and have picked up the couple of games I have on it without my help. But we’d just moved to this new house when the OA and I shared a look as a bunch of young boys wandered out of our apartment complex. I wondered if the OA was thinking what I was, so I quizzed him – What? What’s that look about?

And he replied, horrified (because he’s pretty fit for someone pushing forty) – ‘Those boys cant be more than 16 and all of them are overweight. Some in need of chest support.’

He was right. Kids just don’t get any exercise. I also realise that there is nothing I can do about it if they want to be on the computer or TV while I am at work. A scary thought. What are yours?

And finally – a bunch of funny girls have put together a Spamazine. Go over and take a look.

EDITED TO ADD: I am horrified. I didn’t put up the second link and no one even pointed it out. Anyway. Amended!

What happened next

One child starting big school (needing all sorts of things everyday – labelled clothes, art materials, show and tell stuff, needs someone to ride the bus with him to school while the driver learns where he is to be dropped etc)

One house where none of the stuff from our old house fits. Curtains, furniture, everything the wrong size, hence nothing feels like home

One messed up iPhone

AND

One robbed BlackBerry that didn’t belong to me – means no contacts – friends, family, work

One maid going home since her duty is done

One new maid who can’t speak or understand a word of English including things like ‘bed’

One absent driver who went home to get married and apparently can’t get enough of his new wife, professional duties abandoned. Which means taking a mix of lifts, autos, buses and metro rides that take the commute up to 3 hours of exhaustion one way and a very tired person with aching fever-in-the-bones-knees

One long commute that is 2 hours one way. Unless it rains in which case it goes up to 3 hours

One little girl to be admitted to a new school

One cook who is willing to cook for the maids but cooks absolute crap leaving takeaway as the only option

One flooding house and ruined furniture and carpets. Wooden flooring swollen and uneven and coming apart

One set of facilities to be shifted including gas, phone lines, billing address, bank work, locker…

One set of knees unable to move. Pain on a scale of 1 – 10? About 15.

One case of PCOS acting up and taking the body’s cycle haywire, so that I am now weak and anaemic with the blood loss (apologies Arun, Anand, Devakishor, Alok and the other men, I did try to keep this as polite as possible) resulting in black out and fainting spells. To say nothing of a pimply, oily face that would scare the life out of you if you encountered it in a dark alley at night

One travelling husband

All equals a complete breakdown and a few more blackouts where strangers took me home. So yes, I’m on a week’s leave. My doctor says my knees are degenerating really fast and there is no cure. Which means I will soon be chopped off at the knee and walking around on stumps. Not funny. I’m lying in bed, keeping me knees rested and just moving from room to room and instructing maids in the purest of Bengali on how to order and settle things. I have dug out my old laptop and typing on a tiny little keyboard is no fun so don’t expect to see too much of me.

The only bright side is that the kids are thrilled. They don’t realise I am sick and are thrilled to be able to get into bed with me, cuddle while it rains outside and play games and be read to. The only silver lining to this cloud. Frankly the more I think about it I realise that God sometimes does what is best for you in His wisdom. The only way to take me off my feet and make me rest, was to literally take my legs away from me. Maybe this is time to take stock of my life and slow down.

Stay  well you all.

A little bigger than my problem

It was only two days ago that I was wallowing in self pity, feeding on your empathy, quite sure that it was the end of the world for my kids. Their imagination stamped upon, their creativity stifled, poor misunderstood, unappreciated babies. Ah woe is me.

Until I picked up the paper and read this. Tribal children in Jharkhand – poverty stricken and diseased. Hot rods driven into their distended stomachs to kill worms. One rebels against the image that the West has of our country. Uneducated, superstitious, poor, neglected. Each time a foreigner brings it up, we find ways to disprove them. Our IITs, our malls, our metro systems, the new shining India.

And then something like this happens and everything else is wiped out. Is insignificant in the face of something like this. When all it takes is a little bottle of Zentel once in 6 months, why is it that its not getting to these poor tribals? Where are the government hospitals? Are they staffed? Are medicines available? And they probably aren’t if people are resorting to plunging hot rods through a child’s stomach. Some as young as three years old. As young as my little Bean. Read more at Tracking Hunger.

What are we going to do about it?

And finally pigs flew

..you know swine flu? Bad joke? Don’t blame me. Blame Jedi. He’s been with us since he got back from Nepal and there’s only so long you can remain uninfected. Just like swine flu. After that it’s poor jokes and poor sleep.

Okay let me start at the beginning. It began with the kids waking up at 1 am and puking all over our bed (how do they time this shit and coordinate? This sibling bond nonsense is already paling!). Our life headed steadily down the crapper since (About ten days ago). Literally. Because then they started with the diarrhea. And crapped in turn. Then the cough, the cold, the fever – and the big swine flu scare.

It’s alright, you can let go of that breath you’re holding because they don’t have it. Thank God! In fact they’re going back to school today, all healed and thinner. But they gave us some terrifying nights.

In particular the Brat who had some 103.8 degrees of fever and was delirious. God I’m only 30 and can’t deal with this, I cried! The OA and I sat up all night putting ice packs on his forehead as he rambled on about planes and rhinos and Choina (Chennai!). The first time we laid the cold towel on him he writhed and screamed ‘Save me, help! Help…’ All funny in hindsight – or maybe we’re still hysterical. But at that moment the OA and I crumbled. Holding down your burning baby who is crying and trying to get away from his parents is not an experience I want to repeat. We’re obviously ill equipped to deal with their teens and heart break. By dawn his fever had not broken and it was hospital and the pediatrician.

One look at the high dosage she was prescribing and my heart skipped a beat. But we began and his fever fell and her stomach began to mend. And so did his. The OA and I worked alternately from home. He stayed home all morning and did his email and client calls until I got back at lunch and then left for work. And through this all, neither of us got a single night of sleep. Partly because the kids were still puking  and crapping and burning with fever and partly because of the terror that had gripped our hearts.

Swine flu is spreading, the terror is spreading faster and schools are closing down across the country. As I played ringa-ringa-roses with two well recovered kids today, I stopped and thought of the Plague. And who said we’re in the 21st century? We’re still being hit by epidemics. They’re just different ones. Something rather scary about that.

We have iPods and Wii. We have wi-fi and jet flights. We go to the moon and back. But we’re still dropping like flies to a new virus. Amazing.

It’s been an interesting ten days inspite of the kids’ sickness or maybe because of it, because its forced us to stay home and friends like Jedi and Oye Pancho have kept us company through long vigils. We put the kids to bed and sit out on the balcony chatting into the night over a glass of something strong (Oh – I am officially a wine drinker now although I forgot to tell you when I started!) – and kept an ear out for the kids.

From Ayurveda to our duty towards our parents, we’ve discussed everything. And I have learnt that I am pitta dosha predominant – responsible for my fiery temper and my hair loss!

The kids have also got a break from tired, worried parents. The Bean for instance, cannot deal with the fact that Jedi didn’t immediately fall in love with her and worship at her altar. So she began to try to catch his attention by jumping on her father, singing to me and all the while keeping an eye on him. When all else failed she drank a glass of water, handed the empty glass to him and walked away!

To which Jedi told 18 year old Cousin K – this is how you treat women. Learn early  – ignore them and they come running. Yes of course I let them have the rough edge of my tongue.

Anyway  – it’s early morning. I am over worked, sleepy, exhausted and relieved that the kids are fine. That it was only a scare and not the real thing. They’ve lost a lot of weight and are rather pale  – but raring to go back to school and have been declared fit.

 For the rest of you – I have some remedies that seem to be doing the SMS rounds. I don’t know how effective they are so do check with your doctor.

1. Keep a handkerchief (do people still posess those?) with a few drops of eucalyptus oil on it and keep smelling it through the day

2. Give Influenzum 200 pills, three times a day for 5 days  – homoeopathy for swine flue prevention

3. Gelsmium 30, twice a day for prevention. Apparently it was proved effective in the treatment of swine flu in France a decade back and has been reported in the British Journal of Clinical Medicine.

AGAIN – I am not a doctor and can’t recommend any of this with surety so DO check with your doctor before trying any of them.

Here are the symptoms in case you don’t already know them.

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Read more here. Stay well, stay safe, wash your hands often and don’t go to crowded places. God bless!