Dear Chronic C. Pancreatitis,

 

 

Dear Chronic C. Pancreatitis,

I remember being thirteen. I remember being in pain and not knowing why. I remember the months and years that led up to the startling discovery that, welp, it was not gastritis after all. You know, it all seems quite funny to me now. My body had to house you in the name of gastritis for seven years until I’d finally know you for who you really were. Chronic Calcific Pancreatitis.

You made my childhood difficult. No matter how hard I tried to be anything else, at the end of the day, I was that fragile, weak bodied girl whose family pampered her too much to let her go to school at the first symptoms of an illness. I wonder if you ever felt insulted when all those doctors reduced you to the harmless label of gastritis despite the tremendous pain you made me cope with.

But how do I write about that pain? I’m not really sure how I can squash the sort of pain that had me falling to my knees and praying for quieter days into a 500 worded letter. You see, the problem is that it is kind of hard to find the sweet spot where my words don’t exaggerate the trauma nor does it do injustice to the experience by making it seem any less traumatic than what it really was. I remember my body flaring up as you sent me to painful shivers and blanketed me with the absurd sweat drops of a terrifyingly cold body.  I tried to spew you out. I tried to get to know you. But no matter, how often, you materialized into the pain, sweat and tears, I failed to understand you.  All of us did.

When some years later the results showed, tough, opaque words that were supposed to explain to me your real identity, I felt happy. Despite it all, I felt relieved and grateful.  Because uncertainty was the worst and I went from sensitive to resilient in the matter of a few seconds it took anyone to read the results. Thank you.

This was our journey. A journey, the details of which are better left unexplained. Sometimes, pain leaves you with no other choice than to brave it through. And I had no choice other than coping when my body crumbled under your pressure.  Today, I understand the value of good health and happiness because of the pain, you inflicted on me. While enduring the pain was hell, overcoming it was equal heaven. There’s nothing more beautiful than recovery.  Thank you.

You were a bunch of paradoxes. I was cold and sweaty with your hellfire burning my insides. I was blinded with the pain but I started seeing clearly with my eyes closed. You taught me how to walk, run and sprint in the dark. You taught me that worse never comes to the worst, that I’m far too good at keeping going.   You helped me pull off the magical feat of toughing it through without so much as an outward twitch or crack. You helped me master the art of nonchalantly shrugging my way through anything. Thank you.

If it weren’t for you, I’d never have listened to many stories, never would have met many wonderful people, never would have enjoyed the comfort of being looked after. You set off a lot of reactions in my life to which I’m eternally grateful. You showed me the steps to love, beauty and happiness. If it weren’t for you, I’d never have the thrill of being the storyteller of an adventurous experience to which only I know the details. Thank you.

Thank you for showing me that people can be kind, that most of us have good intentions at heart. Thank you for teaching me that surgeons are not that ruthless after all. Thank you for showing me the inside of an OT. Thank you for the beautiful fever dreams you gave me in an ICU. Thank you for the knife that cut me into two. Thank you for the 12inch scar which I’ll cherish to the end of my days.

You were never kind. But thank you for the fast track evolution. I’m not who I was. But I’m a better person today.

Forever grateful,

Paavana

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” I Don’t Want the Damn Dog!”

 

 

     If there’s one thing I’m certain of it is just how much my father is capable of loving. But he seldom expresses it. He puts up a brave front of a soldier hardened in war; a callous indifference to anything emotional. He hugs you by propping his head up a bit and saying “ ah sheri sheri” and when he kisses you he kisses the fraction of air between your cheeks and his lips. It is as if his fatherly responsibilities hinder him from any expression of his sensitivity. I wonder what a living hell it must be for a person whose heart is so full of love that it reaches up to his eyes in a twinkle, to bottle it all up. I guess the lid is not tight enough because sometimes, no matter how hard he tries to keep it all in, it leaks in precious doses; as tears that escape during movies, a surprise platter of eggs and whatnot from the kitchen and single-stoned rings for me and my brother on his way back from work.  When my father talks, he seems to be suffocated inside his sentences. Words come out as little puffs of air with so much love and innocence sleeping in them as if the world was too corrupt for them to wake up to.

 

My brother and I never thought that our dogged determination in persuading Achan to buy a dog would dish out a beautiful result. After weeks of listening to us sniveling, we eventually annoyed him into buying a labrador darling. Even while driving to the kennel, he kept on reminding us that he didn’t want the damn dog and that looking after her was our responsibility. However, the minute he laid eyes on what was to be our first dog in the family, something changed in him. He found a worthy outlet, pure enough to be the recipient of his affections. In our cousin’s home in Trivandrum, where we spent the first night, I saw him fussing over her; talking to her in a high pitched cuckoo voice, sweeping her up in his arms, holding her with the gentlest care as if she was porcelain and might just break in his arms. It is sweet how love comes easy with animals. There’s no waiting around to fall in love; no timed responses or curated personalities. It’s an instant recognition of the purity in each other and for a dog, all it takes is a fraction of a second to polish the love that was marred by the cruel march of time. The Damn Dog Cindy went on to become his playful best friend and only hobby. She was a responsibility he thoroughly enjoyed. Though he would occasionally point out the turn of events where the two of us who awfully wanted the Damn Dog ended up back in our game rooms, we knew that Cindy was a responsibility he wouldn’t dare give up. He wanted to do right by her and being the perfectionist that he is, he wanted to take care of her himself.

His explicit shows of affection is a bliss we never get to experience for ourselves. But if I look through the curtains at about 8 in the night, I can see him with Cindy, dancing and running and playing like two childhood friends, oblivious to the outside world and happily lost in the blissful dollhouse they have built for themselves.

 

The greatest pain I have seen in Achan’s eyes was when Cindy passed away. When she was being buried, it started raining and after lingering around for a few more seconds, the rest of us went back inside to mourn in the comfort of shelter. Achan was nowhere to be found and when I got out to check for him, I saw him standing under the rain, her collar, and bowl in his hand. His eyes looked defeated, his body was breaking and his heart was fighting sobs that screamed to get out. I left him be.

 

This switch in him was almost 9 years ago. We have since gotten used to seeing his uncurated bouts of love. Needless to say, it softened his rough edges. He was no longer afraid to be vulnerable. It’s been two years since Cindy passed and today we have another dog and two turtles. He is as sweet to the turtles as he is to the dog which, now, is not so damned.

The Importance of Being Bored

It’s been quite a long time since I was properly bored. I remember being a kid and staring mindlessly at pictures, yawning and scratching my head, fiddling with anything in near sight. To be perfectly honest, I sort of miss  that today. But that was a long time ago, before smartphones and adulthood and before a productivity obsessed age . While my phone is the most interesting thing on the planet now, adulthood and its crazy obsession with productivity robs me of any real opportunity to be genuinely bored. It’s been an astonishingly long time since I sat down with nothing but just my thoughts as entertainment and stared out the window.

I’m not alone in this. In fact, all of us are a lot less bored than our ancestors, thanks to the myriad forms of entertainment at our disposal today. We are even afraid of it. Being bored makes us feel unproductive and as if we are missing out on better, more ‘fun’ things to do and so we avoid it at all costs with a vigorous pursuit of entertainment. The upshot of being less bored is very problematic. We are always searching for getaways from reality, as if the world around you now, free of any duties, is not exciting enough. We find it hard to sit with stillness. You know what? I miss staring out of the window. Whenever I do, there’s this toxic narrative that plays inside me telling me there are a lot of other things that I should be doing.

However, staring out the window was probably the most meaningful thing I’ve done over the years. It was less about what was outside than it was about what was in me. To sit and observe the thoughts coursing through my head taking me to a dead past and a non existent future was the most meaningful exercise I’ve done in discovering myself. In fact, my new year’s resolution is to stare out the window more. That’s right, I aspire to look out the window more. While this might seem the most laughable resolution to this productivity obsessed age, small exercises as these are our only hopes of relying on ourselves for entertainment. To stir the contents of our mind and cook up the most delicious dreams is certainly more purposeful than scrolling away mindlessly on Instagram. Not only does this render us more creative, it also helps us find cure for many sleepless nights. Keeping brief appointments with the neglected parts of ourselves is really important to keep our heads healthy. Plato suggested a metaphor for the mind: it is full of ideas like birds fluttering around in the aviary of our brains. In order for the birds to settle we need periods of calm.

When we bow to this creative potential of reverie, some of our greatest insights unfold in front of us. Indulging in boredom is a silent rebellion against the ex

cessive demands that this world imposes on ourselves. Isn’t understanding ourselves the most important task in the world anyway? We are all junkies high on pixels, blue lights and glowing screens. It’s time we instead resort to the multiplex cinema screen of avantgarde videos in our head and resist the absent minded busyness that is offered to us as our smart phones.

Of Home and Happiness

As I stand here under the light of a fancy and retro neon lamp in our car porch, I can’t help but feel enormously happy. No, I didn’t win the lottery, I didn’t get a free ticket to Paris and I certainly wasn’t invited to dine with my favourite author ( Ooh, la la , does anyone smell hypocrisy?)

I’m happy because of the new fancy light and everything that came with it.

For 20 years, I’ve lived alongside the same switch panels, the wise old creaking fans and half plastered walls. Even the furniture, crockery, pictures, rugs, cushions, vases and door handles which were once carefully assembled by my young and hopeful parents had not budged an inch for twenty long years. They peacefully sat there, took roots and grew old with everyone else. They never begged to be moved even as they lay victims to the torture of two dogs. The charm of their newness soon wore out to give way to what we called home. There was something very kind, loving and accepting of those chipped wall paint and rusted hinges. Something that said, “we’re all flawed here, relax, you’re at home”

Our home felt dignified but approachable. Artfully sculpted in Red Bricks, the house managed to balance five lives in it. It embodied our spiritual values and merits with utter care and gentleness. Fifteen years into living very chaotically inside our home, we realized that this gentle structure whose only life was what we lent it had ultimately gone the limit. The charm of the rusting hinges were once comforting but now it irritated. The fan creaked but it no longer managed to lull us to sleep. The mysterious weeds which began to grow on the sun shade were no longer a mystery and officially a threat. But, since, life gets quite the thrill in taking us on a radically different course than what we hoped for, we overlooked attending to this aged edifice that gave us security. In short, it became quite an impossibility to continue living there. And so after seven exhausting and long months of revamping the house, it is back to good health.

Every nook and corner brims with happiness. As I run around clicking the new switches off and on, they sound overjoyed. The lights blink in confusion of finding themselves in this new place and the paint emanates the smell of bloom. Why, even the stench of the varnish has some delight to it. And now once again the process starts. Once again we get to grow older together and as I stand here under the fancy retro neon lamp, I see that some spiders have started to wrap the lamp in cobweb to call it their home. And now we are home and we are happy.

A Favorite Proposition

 

Growing up meant always having answers to what our favorites were; favorite color, favorite book, favorite person…. But back then, we were not as complicated as we are now.  Our limited exposure to things made it cent times easier to favor a certain something. But as we grew up, we went through experiences that inevitably changed us and had the final say in who we are today. This 20 year old doesn’t remember what her five year old self felt so strongly about.  I can dimly recall that blue was my favorite color, fifteen years back, since I took a certain fascination to the calmness of the azure sky.  I can declare, without muddling up my brain, that my favorite book was Wacky Wednesday, because, quite simply put, that book got me. However, today it seems as though the only thing I carried throughout these 20 years was just my name. Everything else from perspectives to favorites were dropped on the way. Of course, this is how it is and how it should be. But, the fact that I can’t pick “one” favorite out of anything irks the hell out of me!

I used to believe that having a favorite something helps us identify ourselves and establish ourselves in the world as a stable entity with clearly chalked out opinions and ideas, but the more I’m thinking of this, the more I’m realizing that having experienced so much more than what I did at five, it will be a cold day in hell before I pick just one of the lot.  But this is just me. And so it came as quite a shock to me when I came to know a handful of adults who have perfected the art of self categorization by being very lucid about what their favorites are. But this doesn’t shock me now. After a few hours of researching and reading up on a bit of psychology, I learned that our tastes are hardwired for life at the ages 14 and 24 since this is the peak of our emotional and sexual awakening and we tend to be more open and accepting of things at these ages. And, as we grow older our personality gets more and more cemented until it gets its final and forever shape at 30.

Groundbreaking Harvard Psychologist William James had a little something to say on this topic. In his 1890 text, The Principles of Psychology, James observes that our personality settles down and stabilizes in our adulthood. He says,

“In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again,”

and Brian. R. Little agrees. He says the same in his book Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. Even worse, he goes on to laugh at the human condition and remarks,

“You’re doomed! What you’ve got now — that’s it,”

The point is, our personality gets muted after 30 and we stop changing. We will have staunch principles,strict set of favorites and a short fuse.  We will grow to become like our parents and we most certainly will attain a holier than thou status by throwing contempt at the new music and trends. ( I’m already imagining myself a stooped 163 cm figure, bitter, grumpy and worrying about where the world seems to be headed). But it doesn’t have to be that way. ( We will come back to this shortly)

The point I’m quite desperately trying to drive home has to do everything regarding the importance of resisting self-categorization. I admit, this is Science and everything seems to be drawn out for us but all this science are just more reasons as to why we should stop confining ourselves in little cages in an attempt to pin ourselves down. We should always be in a constant flux. We should be trying out new authors, movies and genres. And to the ones like me who don’t really have one favorite but many, I say, we have the right to be nonplussed by the odd question which is ” What is your favorite______?”

We aren’t five anymore. We have gone on to experience a million different colors and songs. It is impossible to pick one. Maybe making us feel less than adequate wasn’t intended but take the plot of your average Rom Com! Boy meets girl and both are united owing to their shared interest in some obscure musical band and they live happily ever after. ( This doesn’t make much sense here but garn! I’m so done with these mindless plots!)

Our favorites don’t really give enough insights regarding the people we really are. They are NOT the leading edge of our personalities and they should stop defining us. Our likes and dislikes are variable, they change depending on our mood and situation and, no, this question does not reveal the deepest mysteries of our consciousness. Coming back to, you-can’t-change-after-30, you can change after thirty but it would be harder than how it would have been when you were 21! Also, liking the same old stuff until you die is as exciting as watching paint dry. So, go out and get your hands on everything. Sometimes it’s better to be the Jack of all trades.

Nothing Matters

Having lived 20 years inside the rapture and weariness of my own mind, I can quite decisively state the importance of being left alone to nature. Heres why. We are birthed without our will and have to wade our way through a throng of turbulent and unpredictable faces. It’s on us to deal with every knot and tangle of these nerves up in our head! Funny is it not? We navigate the world with the help and decisions of a tangle of a walnut sitting at the top of our spine. While they are brilliant instruments capable of reasoning and imagining,I must say, they are deeply flawed! Our mind is terrible at knowing why it gets certain thoughts and eventually it spirals into a horde of unwanted impressions about itself and the world and before we know it, it proclaims us crazy. Something that we tend to overlook is that each of us has a journey that is quite unique to us. Each of us understands the world differently. We suffer and tolerate faulty weathers. We get shaped more by our own experiences of things over the real reality. We cause chaos. And often we get into a bit of a decline, to quote a famous depressed someone.

We are all fated to feel irredeemably alone and sad because we keep a lot to ourselves and are extremely picky of what we choose to reveal. This could all be easily dealt with if instead of spending a good amount of our time , chatting idly about this and that and a million other petty matters that would go very well either way without any of our special attentions to it, we could submit our vulnerabilities to each other and talk of how difficult things can get upstairs. Then we’d have a better chance at living what we like to call a meaningful life. Even then, our mind’s knots are rather difficult to unpick.

And that is why I firmly hold on to the skies and stars and clouds and trees. Instead of running from one thing to another we should make it a point to book a session with the quietest part of ourselves. Someone we neglect in the madness of our days. To stay sane, it is vital that we heed to the stillness of the frosty mornings and gentle lull of the midnight winds. We should understand that none of this really matters when we consider it from a sufficient distance and know that the agitations of the here and now is null when measured against the infiniteness of the world above us. We should practice mulling over the utter insignificance of our smallish lives. There is a constant drama happening over our heads and in the wilds utterly unaware of our problems. In the bigger picture, we don’t matter, our problems even less. Self knowledge might be the most profound art of living but learning to not take ourselves too seriously is the most helpful one.

Lost

As the people go about engrossed in the magnificent clutter of our world, I can’t help but imagine myself lost at sea. I guess it’s the plain understanding that in the very soil that we’ve firmly rooted our feet, shall we choose to scale forward, we will find ourselves in the Virgin lands of our planet.

The choked forests, the oceans, the untouristed valleys, they echo the utter truth and madness of the world…The truth of loneliness and the justified madness of a violence that is simply the normal survival script of nature. Of these, of the elemental nature ,we know nothing. Of the sprawling cities and chaotic charm of humanity we know everything.

What happens beyond the seven seas, what shrieks in the breathless forests, who sings at the depths of the oceans?

A billion brains on the planet cannot comprehend the vastness and the threatening beauty of our mother. Our mother, the nature that surrounds us is truly daunting. We sleep in the comfort and safety of our homes when night falls and in this we are truly archaic for we are not just turning our backs to the darkness that drops, we are turning our backs to what the darkness brings with it.

As I sit here trying to imagine myself lost at sea, I believe that the stories my grandma told me might be true after all. With so much of our world unexplored, who am I to deny mermaids and monsters?

For now, I’m just a tiny boat isolated from the raving busyness of the world.