I first knew her as Manish’s girlfriend. It was Manish who gave me her e-mail id. I looked up her profile on facebook to send her a friend request because Manish wanted me to do so. Because Manish was my best friend, I did exactly what he said.

“Hi, I am Manish’s friend. I have heard so much about you from him. Would love to be your friend, too. Plz accept my fb friend request. – Neethu.”

Once after she accepted my friend request, we started to meet each other regularly on facebook chat. In the beginning, we exchanged only formal greetings and talked about studies. Later I started knowing her well, and eventually, we became good friends overtime.

Her name was Shilpa. She told me that she had long hair, black eyes and lipstick free lips. That she always wore hair in braids. That her face was dark in complexion, and apart from a few blackhead outbursts, it was not special at all. That she always wore cotton salwar kameez with dupatta. That she arrived at the classroom organized and composed, with the assignments for each of the classes neatly stapled and placed in their individual folders. That she barely paid any attention to makeover and clothing. That it amazes her how she fell in love with Manish. That her parents think that she was shy and too devoted to her studies to bother with boys. That she was plain, boring and studious. That working on her laptop typing up her notes, marking off the books she read and sitting for hours alone in her room were more fulfilling for her than anything else.

We grew close, and so we started meeting on facebook chat every evening. I could tell everything about her- her future plans, her outlook about life, her philosophical views and everything else a girl could tell to another girl. I came to know that earning a Ph.D in Chemistry was the most important thing for her. I straightaway asked her if she could join me for pursuing research on biochemistry once she and I finish our studies, and she readily agreed. She taught me chemical kinetics and I told her about the patients I had attended to and the surgeries I had made a note of. She became the kind of friend I never wanted to lose.

One day, after I asked to, she showed me her photo blog. It was her secret possession, and less than 20 people including me and Manish had the privilege to gain access to the private space. There were countless photographs, each arranged as thumbnails which popped up into a bigger size once clicked, against a black background. It contained all photos she had ever clicked, but none of her own.


I was happy when you asked me to arrange for your accommodation at Calicut. You did not want Manish to know from me that you were going to Calicut, because you and Manish had decided to separate. I booked a room for you at Hotel Seashore, where you could enjoy watching the sea through the bedroom window. You said that I need not come to the Railway station to pick you up, and that I could come to meet you on the second day of your arrival, because you had to attend the interview on the first day. I was overjoyed that you would be residing at Calicut pursuing research for the next two years if you were to be successful in the interview.

You rang me up on reaching the hotel at Sunday night. You said that your classmate Komal has also come with you for attending the interview. I wished you good luck for the interview and assured that I would visit you on Tuesday morning. You said that you were excited to see the sea, and that you will be going to the sea in a motorboat arranged by the hotel for the tourists on Monday evening in order to take fine snaps. The last thing you said me was that you wanted me to talk with Manish again and that you would reconsider the relationship with him.

I fancied having breakfast with you on the rooftop of Hotel Seashore, sitting among small sparrows that hopped at our feet an table while eating hot dosa and fresh chutney under a glaring blue sky in the cool backdrop of the roaring Arabian sea.

I would be seeing you for the first time…

On Monday night, I was watching Six O’ clock news, as usual. The news reader was asking pointed questions to a minister who was alleged of a scandal. I was getting bored and was about to switch to another channel when I heard the latest news that an unexpected wave hit a boat owned by Hotel Seashore, and all four tourists who were aboard were missing. On TV, I saw the image of the Indian coastline and a red dot marked at the point which had to be Calicut. I saw an excited news reporter who enthusiastically reported that it was less probable that the missing tourists might survive because the motorboat did not have life jackets.

A chill passed through my spine.

I rang you on your phone only to receive the automatic message saying the user is out of coverage area. I looked up the hotel’s number in the directory and rang many times but the number was busy. I then looked up your blog and saw the last images you posted. A crow perched on a lighthouse. Three smiling people in the backdrop of the sea. A faint silver shoreline.

I closed my eyes in horror. Clearly, you have had a boat ride.

The next morning, when I should be on my way to your hotel, I rushed to the newspaper stand and bought the papers, reading each news, studying every picture, looking for the details of the missing people. I found none. I gathered from a news website that one unidentified body which was found from the sea was sent to the Medical College mortuary.

At about 11 O’ clock in the morning, quoting the travellers’ record (which had the names of the tourists who bought the tickets) a news channel produced a report giving the names of the four tourists who were aboard the boat.

YOUR name was there.

That afternoon, my forensic medicine class was held in the seminar hall just adjacent to the mortuary. I didn’t have the nerves to visit the mortuary, but I attended the class. For an hour, I listened to the class on ‘Death by Drowning’ without imbibing a word.

My mind was so full of you, my best friend….


After the class, while I was leaving the seminar hall, I saw a girl sitting in the Visitors’ room of the mortuary. She was too young to be present at a place like this where corpses outnumber live humans. She asked me politely if she would be permitted to see the body of her friend which was now in the mortuary.

While I was explaining to her that she needs prior permission, she read my name from the ID card which I had pinned to my white coat, and in a quick movement, before I could do something, she hugged me tightly.

“Neethu, I am Shilpa. My classmate Komal is no more…. And I am alive just because I canceled the boat journey and exchanged the boat ticket with her.… Komal had my camera with her, and uploaded three photographs before death took her away… Her body is now in this mortuary, Neethu… And I am here, waiting for her parents to arrive from Jaipur…”

Did I cry?


Cunningham Syndrome

If you love reading The Cunningham’s Manual Of Practical Anatomy, God save you.

If you don’t,

Welcome to the club. Feel free to have a drink.

If you have no idea about the book I am speaking of, hold on.
The Cunningham’s Manual is every medico’s nightmare. The peculiarity of this book is that it is un-understandable. Most of them who tried to interpret Cunningham have perished in the attempt (May their souls rest in peace. Amen.). Rest of them are either nuts or are Professors in Anatomy department.

Cunningham is known to have tortured medicos from times immemorial. He is the lone survivor in the dissection hall. His lesser known (and therefore, less toxic) counterparts – Chaurasia and Dutta were mercilessly thrown out through the window when they tried to enter the dissection hall. Ever since, medicos are striving to legalize the entry of Chaurasia to the dissection hall.

The fatal disease in which the patient has an irresistible urge to read Cunningham is called ‘Cunningham’s syndrome (CS)’. Such patients are referred to as Cunninghamists. They are normal individuals, except that they smell of formalin.

Cunningham’s syndrome is of two types: congenital and acquired.

(i) Congenital CS : These Cunninghamists are born with silver scalpels in their mouths. This syndrome is usually found in individuals who are genetically related to Henry Grey. They have an irresistible urge to dissect every corpse and have a continuous craving for gold medal in anatomy. Incidence is one in 200.

(ii) Acquired CS: Acquired syndrome is not evident until PG entrance. Once the victims crack the PG entrance and enter Anatomy department, they are forced to read Cunningham. Due to the constant, uniform and slow Cunningham poisoning, they become Cunninghamists. The striking features are gloved hands and presence of forceps in coat pockets.

Cunningham contains a neurotoxin called somnabulin, which when administered orally causes the paralysis of orbicularis oculi and the consequent drooping of eyelids. It is also known to cause sudden involuntary, jerky movements of the intrinsic muscles of the tongue when a question is asked by the Professor at the dissection hall. Further research on the toxic effects of Cunningham is still under progress.

The Cunningham’s Manual contains numerous diagrams, which are as abstract as Salvador Dali’s paintings. Medicos use these diagrams to scare those kids who refuse to eat their vegetables.

The Cunningham is also known to have caused ‘exam madness’, which is characterized by blah-blahing, unstoppable writing and excessive consumption of answer sheets.
Cunningham is lovingly (pun intended) called ‘Kannettan(കണ്ണേട്ടന്‍)’ by Malayali medicos. Medicos love Kannettan and Kannettan loves the medicos in return. They make such a happy couple (sarcasm intended).

P.S : Non-medicos may substitute the name of their most ‘horrible’ textbook with Cunningham.

The poet responds to Bobby Fischer

(“Chess is my life”- Bobby Fischer)

Each in our own way Bob, we have said yes-
to squares of black and white, battles fought and won.
You brood over the pawns and knights while
I pluck the words and rearrange them insanely.
I,like you,respond to echoes, the call of a cuckoo,
the wailing of a beggar woman and the purrs of cats.
You and I are bound by the delicate laws of
arithmetic and the invisible code of grammar.
You lead success, while I am accompanied
only by the ringing voice of yearning.
Give me a crowbar and Archimedes to help,
I shall lift the moon and stars. I wonder,
how can we lift our dreams, Bob, they’re so-
heavy and without wings.Forget Archimedes.
Nights, I still float on my dreams, as you-
do in the skies. Bon nuit, Bob…….


I am tagged!!

I was tagged by Amal on October 21, 2009.

Here is the tag…

1.What is your current obsession?
Physiology,anatomy, physics and networking( when it comes to studies, I am restless).

2. What are you wearing today?
Long top and jeans.

3. What’s for dinner?
Rice and curry..I’ll have a dessert if I am lucky 🙂

4. What’s the last thing you bought?
A new lab coat.

5. What are you listening to right now?
My sister’s ‘music monsters’.

6. What do you think about the person who tagged you?
A very good friend of mine( Thanks for the tag, Amal)

7. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
In Switzerland, just besides the Alps.

8. What are your must-have pieces for summer?
Ice cream.

9. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Utopia. Full stop.

10. Which language do you want to learn?

11. What’s your favourite quote?
“For me,the difficult tasks are always easy. It is the impossible that takes a little more time.”

12. Who do you want to meet right now?
My schoolmates.I badly miss them.

13. What is your favourite colour?
Blue and yellow.

14. How long do you spend reading books?
As long as I can 🙂

15. What is your dream job?
An astronaut, but unfortunately I am a medical student, I will have to treat the patients to make a living.

16. What’s your favourite magazine?

17. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
A dinner party for my friends 🙂

18. What do you consider a fashion faux pas?
I dunno…no idea about the fashionable stuff 😦

19. Who according to you is the most over-rated style icon?
Shilpa Shetty, I guess.

20. What kind of haircut do you prefer?

21. What are you going to do after this?
Write physiology lab record.

22. What are your favorite movies?
Long since I saw a movie…I guess ‘Chemmeen’ is a masterpiece.

23.How many tabs are turned on in your browser right now?
Gmail, orkut, a few poetry blogs, 3 tabs of wikipedia.

24. What inspires you?
The sky.

25. Give us three styling tips that always work for you:
Be friendly, truthful and benevolent.

26. What do you do when you “have nothing to wear” (even though your closet’s packed)?
Ha…never confronted such a situation…Don’t care about looks..

27. Coffee or tea?
None. I prefer a glass of water.

28. What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed?
Read my favourite books, listen to soothing music..Believe me, it works!!

30. Which other blogs do you love visiting?
Look the list below..

31. Favorite Dessert/Sweet?
Milk peda.

32. Favorite Season?

33. If I come to your house now, what would u cook for me?
Anything you wish to have. I’m an expert cook !!

34. What is the right way to avoid people who purposefully hurt you?
I don’t avoid anybody, even those who hurt me.

35. What are you afraid of the most?
Hmm….AIMLESSNESS..Don’t tell anybody, Promise?

36:What brings a smile on your face instantly?
Easy to make me smile..A strategically planned prank would do.

37: What is the first thing you do once you have booted your system?
The most obvious thing- Run browser.

38: My question: What do you love to do when it is drizzling?
I’d love to have a ride on my bicycle (Common cold will follow, but I don’t care).

Rules for those who are tagged:
Respond and rework – answer these questions on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own, and add one more question to the list. Then tag eight or ten other new set of people.

I would love to pass on the tag and award to :

1. Vaisakh Krishnan, whose write ups I love,
2. Latika Mishra, whose poetry I admire,
3. Sid, who keeps me laughing,
4. Tanvi, whose write ups put me into thinking,
5. Anya, who like me is a big cat lover,
6. Ajith, whose poems I adore,
7. Deepak, whose stories I eagerly wait for,
8. Dr.Bibi, a multifaceted doc who blogs for a purpose.


I don’t want to meet him again

Let me introduce before you Mr. Ronak (his name itself is weird, isn’t it?), better known as ‘padaakoo’ in my close circle of friends. There is practically nothing under the sun or above it which Mr. Ronak has no idea about. If you go to him asking help for a seminar, he would snatch your notes as if those were his own property you had run away with and keep you hanging up for a good length of time teaching you how ignorant you are on the topic. If you want me on my knees begging for mercy, ask Mr. Ronak to give me a lecture on ‘black holes’, or let him visit my home with an idea for an essay when I am planning to go for fishing. I feared him so much that whenever I saw him coming towards me from the other end of the lane, I immediately crossed the road. The most horrible fact is that he is my classmate.

I remember our first class in Physics. Our Physics teacher was enthusiastically explaining the properties of light, Corpuscular Theory and so forth( I was too busy to listen because I was having a good look at the girls sitting in the front row). “The velocity of light is approximately three hundred million metres per second”, she said.

“Two hundred ninety nine million, seven hundred ninetytwo thousand,four hundred and fifty eight as estimated by Michaelson’s method”,Ronak interrupted.

” You are right”, Ms. Physics (let us call her so) said dryly and continued her tale on Corpuscular Theory ( I was half asleep by then). “Long back Issac Newton had said-”

” In 1675, exactly”, it was Ronak again. We all stopped writing notes and gazed at him. He was beaming with pride. Ms. Physics turned red. She opened her mouth and closed again, showing a set of pearly white teeth (false teeth, I doubt) without uttering a word.She continued the class, keeping her eyebrows knitted. Occasionally, she asked a few questions, all aiming Ronak, but he was too intelligent to be outsmarted.

Ms.Physics turned our attention to Electromagnetic Theory(Now I was admiring the beauty of Mother Nature). Without any provocation, Ronak stood up and said,”Proposed by Maxwell, in 1873″.

This time,Ms. Physics burned with rage, surpassing red and becoming maroon. “Well, if you are thorough with the subject, why don’t you handle the class yourself?”, she asked him with a bit of sarcasm in her tone.

Ronak rose. He proudly stood near the blackboard and lifted a chalk piece. He explained all those stupid theories one by one giving accurate facts and figures. We listened,in a horrific sort of silence,wondering what Ms.Physics would do next. Fortunately, the bell rang soon and Ms. Physics left the class, keeping her lips pursed.

Day after day, his actions became more annoying.Whenever Ms. Physics or any other teacher explained something, he dramatically stood up and corrected the errors or simply added more details. He would submit his projects far ahead of time, and would win every quiz he had participated. He would work tirelessly in the lab checking and rechecking results. He even had written a letter to the publishers pointing out the errors in our Physics textbook. Anyone who stepped on the stray electric wires in his room and did not come out trembling, with spiny hair, blackened face and a permanently surprised look were far too exceptional.None of us fools could match his caliber. We feared the idea of being his partner in the chemistry lab because he made his partner repeat the experiments until he turned up with the correct value accurate to three significant figures (Moreover, it stinks!!!,hydrogen sulfide smells much better).

One day,to everyone’s relief, he was absent in the class. He did not come thereafter. Rumours spread that he had moved to another college. I was sure that the news was true because Ms.Physics looked more cheerful. Long after, we got busy with our own chores and forgot all about Ronak.

After three years,I passed out with a B.Sc degree (I shall not reveal my marks,they are tremendously good). I soon started looking for a job. Two months passed, and I got the first call letter for an interview.

On the day of the interview, I was particularly enthusiastic about the outcome.I was early to reach the scheduled office. I confidently walked into the interviewers’ room, to meet just one person, sitting on a turn chair on the other side of the table.”Good Morning, sir”, I greeted. He raised his head and kept aside the note he was busy writing.

He was pale and skinny.He glanced me through his steel rimmed spectacles and said “Good Morning, Please take your seat”.

His voice was oddly familiar. I examined his face carefully. I quickly scanned my brain and identified the person (After all, I am not a dung head) and I felt a kind of electric charge passing through my spine.I resisted the urge to kick him and walked outside the room, sweating.’No job’ is better than this job, I thought.

A name board was nailed on the wall close to the door, which read, “Ronak Singh, Managing Director”.

Tough times

Entrance examination is the sieve into which every medical and engineering aspirant is poured. There are hundreds of entrance examinations, conducted both by government and private medical colleges, each testing memory and skill, not aptitude. The more you practice, the more are your chances to win.
Higher secondary course is a physiological laboratory that tests what material a student is made of. Only an A+ holder with more than 90% marks stands the chance of grabbing a medical seat. Each entrance question is a life or death matter. You answer one question right, and your rank shoots up to 500s, if you lose it, it falls to 1000s. This Olympic competitiveness makes it sure that only the fittest, the most single minded, would survive(Darwin had said it right). The sort of laid back, uncompetitive person who wants to ‘live the moment’ will drop out of entrance coaching, I’m sure.
Last month, I visited an entrance coaching centre. I met a junior student from my school, who was making last minute revisions for the model exam. As soon as he recognized me, he came to me with the big bound volume of an MCQ book in Mathematics. As he was talking, I noticed the sparkle in his eyes. (I distinguish entrance aspirants from others by their hollow eyes that resembles long, dark tunnels). Smart guy, I guessed.
He wanted the solution for some difficult math problem. I had forgotten more than half of the formulae I had learned, so I sat down and started writing down the basics, right from the beginning. He watched me silently for some time. After about two minutes, he said ” I know all this stuff. I thought you’d know a shortcut method for answering this question.”
“Why do you want a shortcut?”, I asked.
“See, I need to finish the problem within one minute, so I need to be really fast. I can’t waste too much time on one problem”.
He said it right. And he said it professionally. I guess he’ll crack the IIT entrance.
The changes I notice in an entrance aspirant are not too welcoming. Nowadays, I hear that they don’t even share their notes. That they don’t talk with the fellow competitors. That they wish more for their friends’ failure than their own success. The end result of this training process is students who are addicted to work as patients to morphine.
All through my training process, I didn’t forget to remain human. I gave my life the first priority, even when I went through all the agony of entrance preparation.

Straight to heart


you still try to
rule the world
although I’ve got you
identified, caught,
bound with arteries
and locked in a cage.
You are the sole prisoner
within my self, and the
guardian of my own soul.
How dare you beat
for somebody else
when you’re sure that
you’ll not leave me alive?

The Scalpel

The most interesting part of 1st MBBS course is dissection.You’ll be provided with a Cadaver ( a dead body intended for dissection) and you have to dissect the concerned region and identify the structures( blood vessels, nerves, organs) you are supposed to see. At the dissection hall, MBBS students use a dissection set which should contain at least a scalpel, toothed forceps, toothless forceps and a blunt knife.Dissection is a kind of dress rehearsal for a surgery.
Today’s hero is the scalpel.The scalpel is a wonderful tool, a type 3 lever. It is not for pressing. It is for drawing across the field of skin. I always marvel at its power- cold, gleaming and silent. The scalpel is held in a special way, not palmed, nor gripped, nor grasped but lightly with the tips of the fingers- like holding the bow of a violin or a tulip. In a living body, blood chases the scalpel wherever it is withdrawn, but on a Cadaver, it is safe and easy to use it as it does not bleed.
The scalpel is made of steel. It is in two parts- the handle and the blade. At one end of the handle is a narrow prong upon which the blade is slid and then snapped to place. The handle is blind and decapitated without the blade, but once the blade is slid on it and clicked to position, it is ready for use. The spent scalpel sits silently on the dissection table once its purpose is done.
I encounter a curious problem while fixing the blade on the handle. Every time I fix it, the sharp end of the blade would be pressed on my thumb. A thin streak of blood and a cut on my thumb would be the result. So, you could tell how many blades I fixed that week, just by counting the number of line-like wounds on my left thumb.
I share my dissection table with a girl who is very enthusiastic about dissection. She knows the tips and tricks which one could gain only by experience. I love working with her because she finishes dissection within minutes, which would otherwise have taken hours. The saved time could be productively used for chit- chatting, or in my case, writing this blog post.
One day I saw this girl fixing her blade with ease. She simply slid the blade around the handle and pressed it. Click! it stood at the right place.No hurt.
“Wow..How do you do that ?”, I exclaimed, open mouthed.
“Figure it out” was the answer.
So the next day I bought two new blades and started practising to fix it the way my skilled friend did. It was amusing for the other dissectors to watch me sitting at a corner of the hall and fixing blades while they prepared for the spotting exam. Some of the dissectors were kind enough to offer me their blade and handle to work upon. My skilled friend was trying hard to stifle her laugh while she unearthed every damn nerve and vessel I had no idea of. I went about with this business for about a week during every dissection hour until my thumb became absolutely raw.
Finally I couldn’t take it any longer.I approached my skilled friend and said, ” I give up.How the hell you fix the blade without hurting your thumb?”
Her answer was interesting- “Who said it doesn’t hurt? It hurts me too..” and showed me two thin parallel streaks of wound on her right thumb.

Why I want to remain young

I don’t want to grow up.
For, if I grow, I fear that –
* I might end up shading my pictures in gray, instead of painting them red and blue.
* I might pull the teeth of a comb through my tangled hair, and may even trim down the tresses that curl around my ears.
* I may forget to run into the sea and feel the sand seeping under my feet.
* I may fail to notice the riverside flower when it is blushing at me with full beauty.
* I may sit under the grandfather tree and still neglect the falling leaves.
* I might have a half faked cheeriness in my voice and a false smile on my lips.
* I might start being afraid to go against what I am told to see or believe.
* I may find it difficult to break down my thoughts into words. I may even kill this blog.
(The very existance of this blog is a proof that I am alive and respiring, and not brain-dead.)

I fear that I may grow up to join that class of people who are burdened by ego, sickened by sorrow and blinded by emotions. I shall be disappointed if I become one.

But now I am too young to get disappointed.

Delusions – II

The magical dust, shed by the moon

and the melodious song sung by your lips
Woke me from my deep sleep,
I opened my eyes and I saw you.
Silhouetted in the mirror, I saw-
your image, receding from my window.
Your anklets were giggling,
with the rhythm of your footsteps.
You were singing a forgotten song,
Sorry, I couldn’t make out the words.
Your hair, as dark as moonless night,
were dancing with the tune of your song.
You sailed away, leaving me
in the world of delusions.
I held you in my eyes,
Till your footsteps ceased to hear,
Till your song dissolved into the fog,
Till you vanished into nothingness.
Were you Dream?
Or was I dreaming?