Autumn leaf

Autumn leaf

This is the autumn leaf I painted and gifted to my dear friend Pelin from Turkey. It was painted using Sennelier watercolor. Some realistic touches were made using Faber Castell colored pencils. The frame is IKEA Fiskbo (A4 size).

 

Gender Agenda : Gaining momentum

This article won the All Kerala Women’s Day Essay Writing Contest in March 2013 conducted by Cradle Hospital, Calicut. The topic was “Gender agenda: Gaining momentum”.

Among one of the most talked about issues globally in the recent times is the gender gap and its consequences. In the light of third wave feminism, many gender equations are being re-read and discussed. The gender agenda, therefore, is gaining momentum- slowly but surely.

While the protests of the 70’s were for essential needs like education and equal wages, the protests in the 90’s are for giving adequate and comfortable ‘space’ for women in every sector of the society. The third wave movement in the 90’s also addresses the issues of homosexuality, religion, ethnicity etc. and embraces diversity and change.

The gender crisis is going into a crucial phase worldwide. Women became the heads of the nations for the first time in Mauritius, Serbia, South Korea and Malawi in 2012-13. Malala, the Pakistani girl who advocated for women’s education became a global icon, and her story inspired many global organizations to work for the upliftment of the oppressed women of Asia. One Billion Rising, the event for expressing solidarity to the one billion women who suffer gender violence was taken up by women all over the world to spread the message of gender equality. India is also heading towards the global trend. With the Justice Verma commission proposing new laws to ensure the safety of Indian women and many Indian women making it to news for their glittering achievements, there exists scope for hope.

The Arab spring and the Jasmine revolution was a milestone in the history of struggle for equality. The protests saw many Arab women, who are generally denied personal freedom and imposed strict regulations, taking part in revolution against authoritarian dictators of their respective countries for want of a democratic and peaceful government. Though the protestors, including the Nobel laureate Tavakkul Karman, were later silenced, the incident served as a starting point for the struggle against oppression of women in the Arab world.

The US Presidential elections saw the peak of misogyny in the political agenda of the Republican party. The party’s agenda included enforcing stricter rules for abortion and birth control. Todd Akin, a Republican representative was known to comment that pregnancy rarely occurs as a result of legitimate rape. His explicitly misogynistic and highly objectionable comment was criticized widely by feminist scholars worldwide.

Gender_equality_symbol_(clipart)

The homicidal rape of a Delhi woman has caused the issue of women’s freedom and security to limelight again in India. In India, where rape is inextricably linked to shame, this incident being reported and given wide coverage on the media and social networks served as an impetus to the women to be vocal about the sexual harassments they face. The Delhi issue saw the delegation of women friendly laws which promise stricter punishments for crimes against women. However, the law is not often implemented in its strictest sense and the criminals evade conviction by creating loopholes in the evidence. The focus should, therefore, be on ensuring speedy justice and creating corrupt-less executive bodies.

Misogyny is so deeply rooted in India’s collective psychology that it has permeated our textbooks, our pedagogy and our parenting. The textbook of the pre-school child shows the picture of a man comfortably resting on an armchair, reading the newspaper labeled as ‘father’, while labeling a woman washing utensils in the kitchen as ‘mother’ and unconsciously injects the traditionally assigned, patriarchal gender roles into the child’s brain. While India has unwritten norms about how its womenfolk should behave, it does not impose any restrictions to men, creating generations of people who think of women as a second-class citizen, an inferior being and a sex object. In a society which has determined that men make good leaders, women are underrepresented in administrative and political fronts. Domestic violence, female foeticide, honour killings and dowry system are the other problems faced by a large section of the population in India.

There’s little point to holding up placards asking for change and justice if changes don’t begin from our families. The male and female child should not be discriminated at homes, and all children should be given equal consideration regardless of their gender. Any custom or tradition which threaten the well-being or curtail the freedom of women should not be supported. Women should be empowered to protest against the injustice they are subjected to at homes, colleges and workplace.

While it is satisfying that many of the problems which are primarily of concern to women are being discussed and debated, it is also to be realized that discussions are initiated only when a tragedy happens or when a misogynistic remark slips from the mouth of a notable personality. It required the death of a Delhi woman to get rape be accepted as a mainstream issue, and the comments of ex-Justice Basanth to have the Suryanelli case re-examined. Ireland thought of providing the right to abortion only after the death of  Savitha Halappanavar due to an obstetric cause, and Julia Gillard had to be on her vocal best to have the gender discrimination against women political leaders in Australia capture the attention of the menfolk. We should strive for a just world were women’s issues are not discarded as a gender issue, but recognized as a mainstream problem that requires the collective involvement of both men and women to arrive upon a solution. We should strive for an enlightened world where women are not considered as a machine for pregnancy, but a living being with the capability to take decisions on her own. We should strive for a liberal world where women’s sexual issues and concerns about reproductive health are no longer hushed and silenced.

The observation by Virgnia Woolf that “anonymous was always a woman” throws light into the fact that, women’s achievements are neglected since pre-historic times and that their existence was always in the shadow of their husbands or fathers. Even today, there exist countries which prohibit women from driving and voting. Clerics of certain religions imposing bans selectively on women also point towards misogyny and assert on the patriarchal notion that women are objects who do not have an existence inseparable of their guardians (men), and that they are objects which need guarding.

The growth of technology has largely helped in bridging the gender gap. We have moved from the times when vehicles had to be ignited manually to auto-ignition engines and broken the sexist belief that driving could only be possible for men as it required physical strength to be able to ignite the engine manually. As more and more jobs are getting automated, physical strength is no longer the desired quality of an employee, which has helped women to be a sizeable population at workplace. The stereotyping that women are less intelligent has been challenged by the many women who hold key positions at international companies.

Women, after millennia of repression, are finally on the verge of finding their rightful status in the society. In these modern times where men and women strive equally in all fields of activity, demonstrate identical skills and talents, share equal responsibility, decide the future of institutions and the fate of nations, woman need to be given the respect and freedom she rightfully deserves. The patriarchal notion that women are freely accessible objects which can be possessed and controlled still exist in various communities, which have to be freed of by education.

Quoting Emilie Buchwald, “the most important gift anyone can give a girl is a belief in her own power as an individual, her value without reference to gender, her respect as a person with potential.” Let us hope that in the coming of time, women all over the globe be recognized for their potential and not biased based on their gender.

Dermatologically yours!

At the dermatologist’s, you do not know what to expect. 
 
A pinhead sized beauty spot could be a malignant melanoma and a normal looking wart would be a sqamous cell carcinoma. A really painful blister would turn out to be a pimple and itchy skin would just be allergy.
Before you visit a dermatologist, you should be ready to get surprised. Even as a medical student, I got terribly surprised when my dermatologist announced that a small pimple on the neck (infected sebaceous cyst, to be precise) would require a surgical removal under general anesthesia. 

Bah.
I was back home after a long flight journey from Argentina. My skin was never very good to adapt to the extremes of the climate, be it hot or cold. I hadn’t packed a moisturizer for my Argentine trip, and efforts to buy a good quality moisturizer from Argentine shops turned out to be futile.
By the time I reached home, my skin had shriveled up and had even started peeling off. My lips were dry and cracked. It was in a terrible shape that I landed at the dermatologist.
I was ready to get surprised. I would deal it head-on with it if  I am diagnosed of a malignant melanoma. I would tell my friends and relatives that there is a possibility of distant metastasis to the liver and lungs and that I would go in for the best treatment known to the medical community. I was badly in need to fall in a terrible illness so that I would be able to show that I am brave enough to fight the disease. 
The dermatologist’s cubicle was a bit crowded when I arrived. Medical students do not have the habit of waiting for their turn when they are in the hospital. I just broke the queue and went inside.
I was welcomed by the sweet smile of a woman doctor. She had thin eyebrows and long eyes. Her eyelashes were long and nose was pointed. Her pink lips reminded me of rose petals. She was wheatish in complexion and had braided her hair into a bun.

Her smile was attractive, not seductive. The nameboard pinned to her chudidar read ‘Dr.Kyra Keyman, Consultant Dermatologist’.

I sat in front of her. She examined my skin and advised me to use cold cream.

Aargh. You do not get a malignant melanoma when you need it.
She advised me against using cheap cold cream and told that I should be careful enough to choose a cream that will suit my skin.
I met Kyra again at the hostel. She was a new faculty at the college. She was native to Chickmagalur, a hill station in Karnataka. Later, we discovered that we lived in the same floor of the hostel and eventually we became good friends. She once suggested that we go to the Kozhikode beach on a holiday.
And we went. Together.
It was fun walking on the sand, chasing the waves, collecting seashells and making castles. Occasionally, a big wave would hit us and we would run away. We made sand castles and watched them being washed away by the waves. We sat at on the rocks and took photographs of each other. We followed the crabs to their burrows. We threw starfishes back to the sea. We ate icecreams and lay down in the sun.
We left the beach with hands full of seashells, and spot-free skin! Thanks to Kyra, I had a great day at the beach!

Illness and Cure

While I was busy recording the B.P of the patients, my mobile phone rang. It was Diya on the other end.

“Diya, how are you? It has been long since……”

“I will die soon Netha”, Diya spoke coldly.

“All of us die sooner or later”, I corrected. Diya had this habit of speaking about death whenever she had had a terrible failure in exams.

There was a pause.

Where are you? I enquired.

I am admitted in ward number 36, in YOUR hospital.

“Are you kiddin……”

Before I finished the sentence, the phone went dead.

I didn’t have to think to find out to which department Ward 36 belonged to. If she is not playing tricks on me, she is terribly sick. I packed the BP apparatus and set off to ward 36, which belonged to radiotherapy department.


 

Diya was being examined by bearded doctor. She was supine on bed. Her face had grown pale, and she had lost hair. Clearly, she had lost weight, too. I waited till the examination was over and caught the attention of the returning doctor.

“Sir, I am an MBBS student here. Could you tell me about Diya’s prognosis?”, I asked, looking intently at his beard. Why so many males wish to conceal their facial characteristics behind their beards is beyond the comprehension of us ordinary mortals.

“She’s been diagnosed of leukemia. She is nearing the terminal stage and perhaps she might not live for more than six months. We have been doing our best to……”

Seeing that my face has grown transparent, he stopped in mid air and left.

Diya was my best friend at school. She is an engineering student at a prestigious college. During our school days, her encyclopaedic knowledge in medicine always amazed me, while she used to give a hats off to my skill in untying complex numerical knots. But fate gave us a cruel twist in life- she joined engineering and I medicine.

We met the last in 2006, at the farewell function at school, when she wrote down in my autograph book “Last night Santa Claus asked me what I wanted for this Christmas. I said him that I want a best friend. So, if a fat man comes to your house and packs you up, please cooperate.”

I had appreciated her exceptional creativity till I discovered that those eternal words were copied as such from a cheap comic.

“Netha….” Diya called me in a weak voice.

I sat beside her.

I don’t know how long we discussed about our golden days at school. Finally, after an hour or so, she cried. I too.

 


 

I made it a habit to visit her ever morning before going to my ward. Her health seemed to deteriorate every day, but I tried my best to keep her in good moods. One day, she asked me if I could go with her to Poothakkaavu. I didn’t like the idea. Now, Poothakkavu is a place famous for Satan worship. This particular Satan is called ‘Chathan’ in Malayalam. Because I thought that it was my duty to keep her happy, I decided to take her to the place.

I had the privilege to see the life-sized statue of chathan in front of the main priest’s residence at Poothakkaavu. It was a funny looking figure, which looked like a human except for the two horns on its head and a tail. The tip of its tail bore a triangle. It was naked except for an underwear, and had a spear in hand. Reminded me of the Onida guy and Luttappi. The Chathan, I must admit, is a cool guy (it was his abs, 6 pac), at least with respect to looks.

It reminded me of a funny episode at the Moral science class. The nun asked in a dull, monotonous voice:
Who is the greatest enemy of mankind? – The question was aimed at Diya.
Satan was the expected answer.
“Mosquitoes”, Diya exclaimed happily. Considering that there was a chikungunya outbreak, Diya was not to blame. But the nun was not pleased and she sent her out of the class.

I waited for Diya outside the hall where the rights were performed by the priest to please the Chathan.
After an hour or so, she came out, with flowers and a laddoo wrapped in a banana leaf. She looked less desperate, and this was exactly what I wanted the chathan to do to her. Love you, Chathan.

On the way she wanted me to stop at the temple. She prayed at the temple and returned, looking happier. God, I love you too.

The paradox of seeking the mercy of both God and Satan was acceptable to me as long as it kept Diya happy.

In the coming days, I took her to the cinema, park and beach. She happened to love it all. Besides, she started loving me more, too. I took up the responsibility of checking her BP and pulse every day. I worked out a diet chart for her and gave her the medicines in time. We discussed current affairs and weather in the evenings while I poured her tea. She started feeling happier in my presence. Diya, I love you.

 


 

It has been one year since. Diya has crossed the limits of existence by six months, and is at the pink of her health. All lab diagnoses ( which I get done routinely every month) show that she is perfectly normal. She is back to college, and is at her academic best.

A song

My broken thoughts
once scribbled in my heart,
when inked on pages
becomes a tuneless song
and floats in the air,
crossing horizons,
out of sight-
to reach destinations unknown.
Oh! Deathless song,
Could you return,
so that I can
cherish you in my heart?

An evergreen leaf

This post is dedicated to my friend Mounika, who gifted me a leaf long back.

Today,
I found a brown brittle leaf, pressed between-
the yellowing pages of my old music book.
A leaf, which is a frail memento of love,
A leaf which has a story engraved on its veins.

Years back,
We sat together on the same stone bench,
Surrounded by trees that touched the sky.
You picked an yellow leaf from the ground,
And gifted me as a token of love.

You then said,
“Even in autumn, it takes a long time,
For a single leaf to fall from the tree.
I have enough time for you that I can wait,
until all the leaves fall from this tree”

We parted.
I placed the leaf securely between
the fresh pages of my new music book.
It slept there, untouched by me,
till I forgot where I had kept it.

Yesterday-
Suddenly I got up this morning,
dreaming about that leaf of yours
I shook and scanned every book I owned,
In search of my bright yellow leaf.

After the rain……..

The branches of the pine tree shook
And sagged with the weight of rain.
The carpet of mosses held raindrops
Like crystal goblets against green velvet.
The tall grasses and dandelions,
danced around with the rhythm of breeze.
Skeletons of kites tangled among oaks,
only to wither and wane with age.
The blossoms shed their pink petals,
like tears shed from a lady’s eyes.
Th soft mud yielded to every foot,
leaving the imprint of every step.
Mother Nature is calling The Rain back,
Wanting and yearning for Her next visit.