A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for August, 2013

My first baby

Posted by Pepper on August 30, 2013

turned 21. How  very boring my life would be without my childhood companion, those ‘double seat’ bicycle rides, those games, those outings, those laughter sessions, those conversations, those jokes that nobody else ever seems to get, that sharing of clothes and shoes, those Bollywood trivia quizzes, that ganging up against mom and dad, those nights where we lay in bed and discussed life, those evenings with the guitar, those counseling sessions you gave me when you were just 13 and so much more..

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Thank you mom and dad, creating her was the best thing you could do for me. Without her, my life wouldn’t have been half as colourful. Because of our shared childhood, she is the *only* person who completely understands me at times..

Dear Sis, today I’ll apologize to you for all the times I bullied you when we were little. For passing on my Science journals to you and making you complete them, for making you polish our white canvas shoes and making you do other things I wouldn’t want to mention on this blog. But what the hell, I know you still love me.

Posted in Meet the family | 35 Comments »

This is what we call a gross post. Read at your own risk.

Posted by Pepper on August 30, 2013

Since the time we discovered Oregano’s ailment, the fact that something as serious as loss of kidney function could occur without a single noticeable symptom kept haunting me. I knew we had to get our health check ups done. It was on our to-do list, but other matters kept taking precedence. And then a few days ago, I decided it was time. I called the hospital and asked for an appointment. I chose the ‘basic’ package. I thought that would suffice for now. We could probe deeper and investigate if any of the values were out of range.

My plan was to take the sister with me. My mom and dad had been getting some tests done at regular intervals, but the sister, Mint and I had not gotten ourselves properly checked in years. So an appointment was taken for the 3 of us. The events that followed have been almost comical.

The lady on the phone told me to “Please carry your urine and stool samples in sterilised containers. It should be the first urine after you wake up in the morning after 12 hours of fasting. And make sure the container is steralised”. Err, that made me queasy. Who wants to pee in a container? And here I thought, carrying a urine sample was bad enough, but a stool sample too? That sounded beyond gross. I told the sister, and as expected, she reacted with an “Eeeeew! I am not doing all that”. I ended it with a “You’ve no choice, so shut up!”.

The day before, I went to the pharmacy and bought 4 sterilized containers. The sister would be coming from my parents’ home, so she would be buying her own containers. So I got 4, to be used between Mint and I. 2 each. *Cough..*

Our appointment in the hospital was at 9 am. Around 7 am when I was just about waking up, I got a call from the sister, who sounded frantic, “Arey I woke up in the morning and went and peed in the pot. I forgot about the tests. Now I can’t get the first urine sample!”. I was pissed and proceeded to blast her. Then, I told her to forget about the ‘first urine in the morning’ and just get some damn sample with her. I reminded her to also get the stool sample. I could hear her grimacing as she hung up.

Having hung up, I moved to the bathroom to complete the, err.. tasks at hand. These tasks seemed stressful and I was wondering why they couldn’t invent better ways to test the necessary components. I mean, containers? Oh, well..Task one got done and I breathed a small sigh of relief. Now for the more complicated task two. I was wondering if I was mentally up for doing such seemingly disgusting things, when I let out a loud scream. When I heard Mint knocking on the door of the bathroom to ask me what had happened, I told him in a piteous tone that I had accidentally knocked down the container that held my precious pee. I was almost crying. It was all in front of my eyes, I could view it in slow motion. My hands trembling and then the container being knocked down and going straight in the pot. There went my ‘first urine’ in the morning.

We then called up the hospital to find out if it was okay if we didn’t bring the first sample. They told us it was, as long as we didn’t eat or drink anything in the last 12 hours. Relief. But now we had a different problem. We were short of containers since I had already wasted one of mine. Mint told me to go back to the bathroom and try completing both the tasks. I could use his containers, since he had not yet gotten to doing any of the tasks at hand. Meanwhile, he would go and look for a pharmacy to buy some more containers.

Just as he was leaving, the sister called saying, “Listen, I don’t think I can bring the stool sample with me. It is just not happening.. I am sorry”. “Then make it happen, dammit, And make it happen fast. We’re already late. Get here quickly. Now let me try going back to my business”, I told her. This was turning out to be a royal pain for all of us.

I will skip the finer details of my struggles in the loo when it came to doing the glorious jobs I had at hand, let me just say after some amount of fight, I was done. When I stepped out, victorious, I noticed Mint was back and was already in the bathroom. I began getting dressed. Meanwhile, the sister reached our place. She had a long face as she explained her inability to carry the stool sample because it was ‘just not happening’. I was busy shouting at her, telling her she had not tried hard enough when Mint emerged out of the bathroom. He came towards me and said, “Baby, I got the urine sample, but stool sample.. woh nahi ho raha hai”. Duh! I looked at them both and said I was stuck with 2 idiots who can’t do their jobs when they are asked to. Stupid people! Since we couldn’t miss our appointment, we left without the requisite items in tow. This examination would be incomplete, but we had no choice..

Once we reached the hospital, we were asked to deposit all the urine/stool samples in some room. We had to present the containers to some man, who was labeling them after confirming our details. I was cringing at the thought of presenting my stuff to a stranger. Anyway, I walked up and decided to get done with it. He looked at the container I was holding. I saw his face crumple as he said, “Yeh urine sample toh bohut thoda hai. Nahi chalega. Jaake wapas karo”. – “This urine sample is too less. Won’t do. Go do it again”. Saying that, he handed me a new container and pointed to the restroom behind him. What?! I had to go through all this again?

Moreover, I thought it was downright creepy that a man standing outside the restroom was aware of the fact that I was peeing in a container. I would then have to go through the horror of handing him that very container. Would he be giggling at the thought? And then I commanded myself to shutup! This was his job. He had better things to do than imagine me peeing.

Finally our ordeal seemed to be over. The urine/stool samples were handed over. Height, weight and BP were noted. Blood samples were given. Chest X Ray and ECG were done. With that, we were through. We get our reports on Monday afternoon. Until then, let me keep my fingers crossed.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 46 Comments »

‘…the bonds that define us and shape our lives, and how the choices we make resonate through history’

Posted by Pepper on August 26, 2013

“Will you learn to speak my language? My ‘mother tongue’?”, I ask Mint, every now and then. He has answered that question numerous times, so I don’t quite know why I keep presenting him with the same query. His response is simple – He will learn if I truly want him to, though he sees no sense in learning it, because we hardly speak the language amongst ourselves. Heck, my own sister cannot speak what we call our ‘mother tongue’. So what utility value does it have, he asks me. I cannot really answer that question.

Growing up, two questions always made me feel very unsure and to be honest, embarrassed. The first being – “What is your mother tongue?”, the second, “What is the name of your native village? Where do you come from?”. How I would struggle to answer those. Growing up in India, most of my friends either spoke Hindi, Marathi, Gujrati, Sindhi, Katchi, Punjabi, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam, Kannada, Tulu, Konkani or Bengali. I spoke none of those. The language we spoke was not recognised, or even heard of. And this made me feel like a misfit, more than once. When it came to linguistic or regional bonding, there was no one particular group I belonged to.

When I do peep into history though, I see a heritage so rich, it makes me proud. My community hailed from two districts close to Balochistan in Pakistan, I am not going to name the districts, because together they constitute the name of the language we speak. The language is exclusive to our community. And considering how very small my community is, any mention on the web will mean a guaranteed end to my anonymity. The language is a mix of Hindi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Urdu with a uniqueness of its own. It also has a Multani dialect.

Some say an earthquake caused my whole community to migrate from their current location close to Balochistan to Karachi. Karachi, is where my whole community thrived and flourished. My grandparents from both sides were born there. Some of my mom’s elder siblings too, were born in Karachi. People from my community set up businesses of their own, did well, earned riches and established a name for themselves.

My childhood is full of real life stories set in Karachi. My grandparents would tell me with pride, about the huge mansions they owned there, the streets on which they played, their education and growing up years and all of that. But the best story was that of my great grandfather. I could see the pride with which my grandmother spoke about her father, how he studied and went on to become a reputed judge in that area. How famous he was! I would hear this story almost every afternoon.

They have terrifying memories of the partition. How they left behind their land, their mansions, their riches, and how they were forced to flee. Imagine leaving behind all that you owned, being forced to move to an unknown land and start afresh. My grandparents told me stories of the horror they faced when men chased them with shining swords in their hands. How they tried locking their gates so that angry mobs could not enter, how they hid behind doors with chili powder in their fists, how they sought refuge in their Muslim neighbours’ homes. I am unable to imagine the terror my grandparents underwent.

And then, people from my community, including my grandparents, moved to Mumbai. Some made it via sea, some covered the journey sitting on the roof of the train – owing to lack of space and availability of tickets. But yes, they came to Bombay. My whole community moved here. They started afresh – with no belongings.  It is because of this move that I have all my relatives in this city. I had my grandparents here, my uncles, aunts, grand aunts, and my parents’ siblings and cousins, everybody is here. Not only me, but my parents too were born in this city. This has been our home. So when kids in school asked me the name of my native village, I didn’t know what to say. Bombay, apparently was never an acceptable response. Everybody had to originate from some other place. Calling Karachi our ‘native place’ would never have worked either, because my classmates would then be aghast by me not being an ‘Indian’. Ofcourse, I know better now.

Like I said earlier, we are small in number. The older generation that actually lived in Karachi is dying. There are very few surviving aunts of mine who have actually witnessed the partition. Those stories are dying. My language is dying. A lot of people have married out of the community. We’re a liberal lot, but at the end of the day, it makes me sad to note that my people and the language will become extinct. And this is more because the language has not been passed on from one generation to another. People in my community choose to speak to their kids in Hindi and English, instead of teaching them the beautiful language that we can actually call ‘our own’. My parents are guilty of the same. I have always been spoken to in Hindi and English..that is just sad. When I question my parents now – they don’t even know why they did it.

I did manage to learn the language though. Just because I grew up hearing my parents conversing with my grandparents. I am not very fluent, but I can manage to speak. The sister on the other hand, can only understand. She fumbles too much while trying to speak.

We have a rare and precious possession in my ancestral home. A picture of my great, great grandfather!

the past1

I’ve wiped out his name. The text at the bottom says, ‘Died on Monday, the 6th October, 1919’. Many times, I’ve looked into this picture. He represents my past. You can see my image in this picture – quite symbolic, isn’t it?. I wonder who he was, what his life was like, and how he were to feel looking down at his great, great grand daughter. How very different our lives are.

And this is my favourite evidence of the honourable man that my great grandfather was. This book belongs to the British era. A rusty copy is owned by my community.

the past 2

the past 4

It takes me back in time, to an era that was so different from the one I live in. This is my history. I am proud to have inherited those genes, and definitely proud to be the great grand daughter of this man.

The title of this post has been taken from the snippet of  Khaled Hosseini’s book ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. Because what they say is true. The bonds of the past shape us and define our lives, and the choices we make do resonate through history. So when I ask Mint if he will learn my language, I can’t deny the fact that it has no utility value. It really doesn’t. But perhaps I want him to learn it just to preserve that culture, that connection, those memories, those people and my history. He is the only person I can hope to acquaint. Because at the back of my mind, I do know that my future children will not have an opportunity to learn the language. They have English, Tamil and Hindi to learn. Forcing another language on them does not seem right. Beside, they will have almost no exposure to the language. It is a choice I made by marrying somebody who comes from such a different culture, caste, region and background. I don’t regret the choice. But sometimes, when I do think of my past, the realisation that it may not be passed on makes me feel a pang. A strange pang.

Posted in Blasts from the past | 59 Comments »

Go, Goa, Gone..

Posted by Pepper on August 23, 2013

‘Let’s go to Goa tomorrow’, Mint said to me conclusively one morning. I looked up in dismay. No, I love Goa to bits. But we had been oscillating between going and not going to Goa for the long weekend since the past 10 days. As usual, we had been unable to decide and the constant oscillation had worn me out. This time, he looked at me and said, “Let’s not change our mind again. We’ll go, pakka.”.

Okay. Fine. I hoped this call was the final one. Tentative plans don’t go too well with me. Immediately, we logged on to the dreaded irctc website to check train ticket availability, in tatkal ofcourse. But the goddamn website was down for an hour, and by the time it was active again, the tickets were sold out. That took me back to my state of uncertainty. We thought it was stupid to fly to Goa, considering how close it is to Bombay. Unfortunately, train tickets were not available. That meant we could only travel by road. And I find road travel very tedious. So was it worth going then?

Mint however, seemed quite enthusiastic about it. We would be staying in a villa owned by one of his friends. It was also seen as an opportunity to catch up with his batchmates from the MBA days. It was going to be 6 couples. Excited emails about the trip had been exchanged within the group. Seeing how keen Mint was, I decided to overcome my reluctance and go for it.

Our next debate was whether we should go by bus or take the car and drive down. I was unsure, really. Having the car would give us freedom, but it would come with the responsibility of driving the car ourselves. Honestly, I was not too confident of our driving skills on Indian highways. At the same time, I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the idea of traveling by bus. Mint on the other hand, was quite convinced we should drive on our own. After some bit of thought and consulting people who’ve done the drive, I dissuaded him and said we should stick to the bus.

Mistake. We stepped into our sleeper coach at 6 pm. At night, we noticed that the bus had halted for no reason in the middle of nowhere. The halt seemed endless. After asking around, we realised there was some dispute going on between the driver and the company that owned the bus. The driver nonchalantly told us we would not be going to Goa. He would take a U turn. A few enraged passengers got off the bus to fight it out. Mint decided to stay back, owing to his lack of knowledge of Marathi. I was pushed to the forefront. We yelled, threatened and did all that we could. The driver seemed to have agreed to get on. Only after did he start driving that we realised that the bloody guy had indeed taken a U turn and that we were headed in the wrong direction.

After driving in the wrong direction for a while more, he halted once again, in the midst of nowhere. This time, all the passengers got off the bus. What on earth was happening? We begged and pleaded and wasted another hour there. After some bit of cajoling, he agreed to get going and we were finally on our way to Goa. Phew. I climbed back into the bus and tried to get some sleep. But the bumps on the road would cause my back to ache. It was a grueling journey that never seemed to end. What was supposed to take 10 hours had already taken 18 hours. I was a mess. My neck and shoulders were sore. My back hurt. And I had a bad cold. Motion induced nausea was setting in. Finally, after hours of trauma, we reached Goa. The bus journey having taken a grand total of 21 frigging hours. Man, I could have made a trip to the US. All along, I could hear Mint saying, “I told you we should just drive on our own”. Sigh.

Once we reached, things got a lot better. We were welcomed with loud sympathetic chatter. Everybody wanted to know, ‘What happened?’ How could it take you 21 hours when it is supposed to take just 10?’. We don’t know, we said. The bus just kept driving. Unfortunately due to the delay, we had lost a lot of precious time that was supposed to be spent in Goa.

Nevertheless, Goa, as always, was rejuvenating and beautiful. People shy away from going to Goa in the rains. But I think the rains add a special charm to the place. The lush green seems more lush after a downpour. The beaches are less crowded. The air smells fresh and clean. It is gorgeous.

This trip, once again made me realise that I am quite an introvert. And that feeling is not very nice, especially if you are in a big group of people that has most girls and some guys jumping, squealing and clapping at the opportunity to go dancing to clubs late in the night, to come back home early in the morning and yet not sleep, to keep the loud jokes and banter going, to play games till the sun is up and never run out of enthusiasm to be with each other every minute.

Me? I can’t handle being with people all the time. After some time, i want my space. I had a good time in my own way. I enjoyed the food I ate, I marveled at the sights around me, I took walks at the beach, I read and I rested. I suspect most people around me would have labelled me as ‘boring’ when I found myself a chair to slump into when all others were dancing in a club. I was tired. I enjoyed the music and i wanted to sit back. I did it without caring of what it looked like. After getting home around 4 am when others decided to play games, I excused myself and said I wanted to sleep. So I did just that. Boring and dull, perhaps that is what I seemed like. Mint on the other hand, if full of energy and ever ready to party, play and socialise. So that really does make me the only odd one out in most groups. Sigh. The differences..

All said and done, I did have a wonderful time. My favourite part of this holiday was a trip to some fort. We were high up there, in an open expanse. It was raining. We stood at the edge of the cliff and looked at the sea and the rolling mist, with the wind in our hair, the sea and the rain in our eyes. Looking down from the edge of the cliff did make me dizzy. We were standing on a little stone on the very edge. One little slip and we’d be engulfed by the valley. To add to my worries, Mint as usual wanted to fool around and take pictures of him jumping from there. Instead of fretting, I asked my nerves to remain still. I took a deep breath and let the beauty wash over me. When I think of it now, I can still feel the cool drops of rain..

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The swing I spent my morning in..

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The huge balcony of the villa. Goa is so green..

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Picture taken by a friend. I couldn’t resist putting it here..

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One of my perfect moments from the trip..

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The breathtaking colours..

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Where we had a lovely meal overlooking the sea..

Posted in Travel | 21 Comments »

Celebration time..

Posted by Pepper on August 22, 2013

My mother celebrates her birthday on India’s Independence Day. That is why the 15th of August has always been special to me. Patriotism has nothing to do with it.

As usual, she was excited about her birthday days in advance. I find her childlike excitement so very endearing. My papa has a, ‘It is just another day’ attitude towards his birthday. But my mom? She will prance around, deciding what she will wear, where we should dine, how we should celebrate, what cake she wants atleast a week before the big day. It makes the sister and I want to squish her.

This time, mama wanted a new pair of jeans and a good tee for her birthday. The jeans shouldn’t have a very narrow cut. The tee should be very casual. Those were her specifications.  The sis, mum and I went on to make the necessary purchases, only to end up in splits of laughter. Mama, being typically mama, would do funny things. On two occasions, when she disliked the fit of the jeans she had tried on, she slipped out of the fitting room with her tee still pulled up and jeans still unbottoned, saying “I don’t like these!”. The sis and I had to pull her back and make her realise the bare state she was in. She is a riot.

Papa, the sis and I pooled in some money to buy her a new music system. It is basic, but the sound has good clarity and it allows her to play all her old MP3s. When we presented it to her on her birthday, she was delighted. What joy it gave us in seeing that expression on her.

Following the birthday ritual, we got a brilliant chocolate cake. I love the cakes from this one place – French Connection. Do try, if you haven’t. Post that, the five of us went out for lunch. There was laughter, conversation and good food. Like I always do at such times, I said a silent thank you to God for my beautiful family.

Here is my darling mother showing her new birthday clothes..

momma bday

Every time I think about it, I feel so blessed to have the kind of parents I do. The other day, I realised I had a sore throat and no medicine at home. My parents were staying at our place. By night, when my dad had already slept, I told my mom about the pesky ache I felt in my throat. It was a casual remark, but my mom jumped up. She said I had to have some medicine before sleeping, or I’d have a rough night due to the sore throat. Mint, who is more of the ‘Aww baby, do some hot water gargling, it will go away’ kind was pulled up by my mother. She told him that she wanted to go in search of a chemist now and get some medicine for me. Either he go with her or she will go alone.

It was quite late at night and while Mint was still talking to me, asking me how bad it is, mom had already worn her shoes and picked up her bag. When her baby is in need of something, there is no stopping my mama. I grinning at Mint, as I saw my fierce mom taking matters in her own hands. He then followed her out of the door and the two of them stepped out to bring me some tablets.

I am glad I did get the tablets, because the next day, my throat hurt like hell and was so inflamed, it felt on fire. Since the time my papa was told about it, he kept calling me to ask me how I was. He pushed tablets in my hand and asked me to have them without fail. When he wasn’t around, he called to remind me of my tablets, or scolded me when he found out I had missed a dose. I love the attention I get from them. While Mint fusses over me when I am ill, he is nowhere close to my parents and I do end up blaming him for not treating me the same way. I guess that is something he has to live with.

As far as my parents go, the sis and I call them our angels. My most adorable mama and papa, always there for us with big smiles. Each time I realise with a start, how heavily I lean on them, I go and give them big hugs and kisses – wanting to keep them with me safely forever. My angels..

Posted in Meet the family | 25 Comments »

Geek talk

Posted by Pepper on August 21, 2013

Mint and I are watching an intimate sex scene playing in a movie.  We watch intently. Our minds begin to wander.. Not in the direction you’d expect them to. Of all things, we end up thinking of the science behind sexual intercourse. And that is what we discuss. The biological functions, about the increase in muscle tension and blood flow, How erection is such a complex process, the endocrine glands, the central nervous system. We keep diving deeper into science and biology.

Surely this is not the kind of conversation arousing scenes should elicit?

*****

This happened a while ago. We were driving back home, stuck in a monstrous jam. We had spent a few hours in the same spot. Mint’s cousin who was with us, exclaimed, “This is ridiculous, I wish I could magically transport myself to my bedroom”. That gave rise to a new thought. Teleportation. We talked about the transfer of matter from one place to another, without physically covering that distance. Mint had a problem with the fundamentals of this concept – what if two bodies choose to be in the exact same space at the exact same time? Then their bodies will fuse and die. The discussion got geekier by the minute as we discussed speed, matter, energy, motion. It went on, until Mint’s cousin snapped. “Guys, will you just shut up and end this stupid discussion? All I said was that I wanted to be transported to my bed. The science and physics behind it be damned”.

Point noted. We shut up at that time., wondering how weird we may have sounded to her.

*****

We’re in a restaurant, enjoying a plateful of hot biryani. I appreciate the flavour of the rice as I laden my plate with another spoonful after scooping it out of the main dish. Then I look at Mint and ask him, very randomly “How many grains of rice are present in your plate?”. He pauses for a second and then promptly takes on the task of calculating the number of rice grains on his plate. An estimation of the height, width and radius of the plate is made. Soon, he has launched into explanations of the formula he used to calculate the area of the plate. After some brief calculations, he comes up with a number. “I’d say, there are x number of rice grains on my plate at present” We discuss the calculation method for some more time, until we both agree with the number that was derived.

Hmm. I wonder after a while, how did our talk shift focus from the delicious biryani at hand to the mumbo jumbo of complex numeric formulae? After all, I see no relation between biryani and mathematics.

*****

Mint and I are sitting on a bench in a park. It is a pretty, starlit night, with a cool wind blowing. Most people would romanticize the setting. I lean in closer to Mint and gaze at the sky above. The stars shine down upon us. As expected, it gives rise to a new discussion – stars! Or rather, the formation and chemical composition of stars. Instinctively, we pull out our phone and look up the details on wiki. We then continue to discuss the percentage of hydrogen and helium, the solar radius, high pressure and high temperature reactions near the core, emission of other gases and so on.

Ugh. Whatever happened to us romancing under the stars?

Sigh. How do most of our conversations end up taking such a nerdy turn? I knew I had married a geek. He is permitted to indulge in this kind of geek talk, but I participate with an astonishing level of interest.  Bloody hell, Science fascinates me. A lot more than I let on. I wonder if that makes me a closet geek. *Shudder*

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 22 Comments »

Of dilemmas and guilt

Posted by Pepper on August 13, 2013

We already knew about Oregano’s condition. The biopsy reports only confirmed all that we knew. I’ll admit it, despite the earlier reports, I secretly hoped the diagnosis was incorrect. That the biopsy would say that the kidneys had no permanent damage. That we would manage to get through by regulating his lifestyle. Unfortunately, that is not how it turned out. With racing heartbeats when we entered the doctor’s cabin, this is what we were told.

– Oregano’s condition is called IgA Nephropathy.
– He has lost 80% of his kidney function. What remains is approximately 20% function.
– This is chronic. The damage cannot be reversed. Neither can it be stopped.
– They have no particular treatment for this. Other than giving him medication to control his BP, and closely monitoring his diet, they can do nothing.
– Once the kidney function is reduced to 10%, he will have to be put on dialysis, or consider a transplant.
– They cannot predict how slowly or quickly the deterioration will take place. They have given us a vague window of between ‘1 and x’ years. The approximate value of x is 5.

We took multiple opinions, hoping to hear something different. Hoping to be told his condition wasn’t as bad as the other doctors made it out to be, that we could restore his lost kidney function. None of that happened. Every doctor told us the same thing. Hearing all of this really crushed a part of my heart.

Yes, I know this is not the end of the world. With changes in his lifestyle, he can delay the impending damage. Ultimately, we can get a transplant and hope things turn out alright. But how easy is it to implement those changes in your life? He has been asked to eat only hot, home cooked meals. No eating out. Ever. He has to limit his protein intake by a huge extent. He has to give up a gazillion other things that are a part of his everyday diet. He has to consume, what seems like a 100 tablets in a day. He needs to get blood and urine tests done every few days/weeks.

For a 24 year old, that kind of life does not seem fair. Eating out is not only about sampling different food, it is about socialising with your pals. It is about catching up over a meal after a long time. Sharing a beer with friends is not only about the experience of drinking, it is about bonding with buddies, loud boisterous talk, and much more. At this age, giving up all of that, forever staying home, eating oil free and low salt food, measuring grams of protein and counting your tablets when all your friends are out there having a good time is just unfair. But then, who said life is fair? I only hope experiencing this life makes him a person of strong will.

Should he go to the US for his studies now or not? That has been our biggest dilemma. Half of the doctors we met told us he could go ahead. The other half said it was not advisable. ‘MS in Game Development’, the course he is scheduled to do is a highly specialised one that comes with no scholarship. The degree comes at a high cost. He has taken a big loan. As per the original plan, he was to complete his Masters program and then work in the US. For a few years, atleast.

Now that he has been diagnosed with this condition, we don’t know what to do. Especially when the doctors have given us a window of ‘1 to x’ years for him to need dialysis or a transplant. So, what if his condition deteriorates in the midst of, or right after this course and he needs a transplant for which he has to come back to India. He may not get a chance to return or work in the US, given these varied visa regulations. Then how will we service the loan? On the other hand, what if this ‘x’ seems to be far way off? Why should he not go for his studies now and continue living a normal life?

Moreover, if he does go, the insurance will not bear the cost of any pre-exising disease. So the expense of all the blood tests, check ups and treatment has to be borne by us. Despite having lived in the US for a considerable amount of time, Mint and I don’t know clearly the exact cost of these things. Other than that, will he able to restrict his diet as a student? Students are known to switch to cheap and convenient methods of cooking, like using canned tomatoes, eating instant food, etc. He won’t have the luxury of doing that. He can’t share a meal with his roommates. He has to cook for himself, every single meal. With his hectic schedule, we are unsure he will be able to manage doing all of that.. As unsure as he is.

While we are in the midst of this ongoing dilemma, my mother in law has been on a self guilt trip. Since the doctors have been unable to point to any one particular cause, she has been over analysing everything that occurred in the past. How did this happen to him? She says maybe she should never have allowed him to eat in the college canteen. Maybe this happened because she threw up through out the 9 months that she was carrying him, so it may have caused some damage to the kidneys? What?! “Stop blaming yourself, ma!”, I tell her. But who am I kidding? I know this is all that runs through her mind, causing those sleepless nights.

Lastly, this whole experience has reinforced one important fact – Anything can happen to anyone, irrespective of age, genetics, medical history and seemingly good health. I can’t emphasize this enough. It comes to us as a shock when things happen to us or our dear ones, and yet, we forget this important fact and take our bodies for granted when all seems well. All of us should, and *must* do a master health check up every single year. Because diseases and ailments crop up silently and wreck havoc within our bodies and only exhibit themselves externally once it is too late. As I type this, I realise Mint and I haven’t had a complete health check up done in years. We plan to get an appointment soon. My plea to you is to do the same, if you haven’t gotten yourself thoroughly tested in the past year.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 40 Comments »

Moving on..

Posted by Pepper on August 9, 2013

We did get Oregano’s biopsy reports. I will probably write about all of that in detail in my next post. For now, let me just say it is a grim scenario. We have been taking opinions from almost every known nephrologist in Chennai. While their choice of treatment differs, their opinion on Oregano’s condition and prognosis is almost the same. The atmosphere around the house is sullen. I feel for my inlaws. Oregano’s ailment seems to have shattered something deep inside them.

In my bid to remain positive, I’ve tried to see the brighter side of it all. I know things are bad, but they could have been worse had this not been diagnosed now. Discovering it now does give us a little time to do some bit of damage control. At home, we try to lighten up the mood. We play games, including some childhood board games of Mint and Oregano that have been safely tucked away for all these years. Movies are watched. Humorous conversation does the rounds. From the corner of my eye, I try to see if my inlaws are joining in the laughter, but a closemouthed smile is all they can manage.

We have been in and out of hospitals a lot, but despite that, I do find myself having some spare time. There is silence and contemplation. It is a far cry from my very active life in Bombay. I have spent quiet time talking to myself, reading books, admiring certain things and taking it all in. One of the things that struck me today was the beauty of this home. My inlaw’s home is certainly not posh or upclass, but it has abundant display of elegance and character.

It is huge. Coming from a city like Bombay, I have been unable to stop admiring the size of the house. It has beautiful terraces, ample of open space, a little garden with pretty pink flowers, hibiscus and lemon trees among others. The house has pretty urlis with fresh flowers from the garden, big glass window panes, beautifully carved wooden stools, tanjore paintings made by my mum in law adorn the place. I wish I could put up a lot of pictures, but the slow connection does not permit me to do that. I will however, put up some favourites..

This front porch is not spectacular by any means.  But I think these steps make a lovely reading spot. I spent some time sitting here, alternating between reading and watching the road, the different people coming to sell fruits, vegetables, broomsticks and other wares. It gives me a chance to slip in and out of two beautiful worlds.

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This little manicured stretch is on the right side of the entrance. Pity that the lush green is not visible at this time. It is a treat for the eyes.

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My favourite. View of the stairwell from the top.

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The enormous and very gorgeous skylight. It casts a lovely glow on the stairwell

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These glass panes let the sun stream in. These too illuminate the stairwell.

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Hibiscus from the garden.  Flowers in this urli are changed everyday. Something about fresh flowers that always adds a touch of tranquility to the place, don’t you think?

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Have I told you Mint belongs to a family of artists? His mom, grandmom, Oregano, uncle, all of them display a streak of brilliance in their artwork. This painting is made by my mom in law. The gold bit has been painted on aluminium foil. The house is full of such stunning tanjore paintings by her. Too bad my cell phone camera does not do justice to the art. Also, the angle in which I clicked was terrible.

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Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 29 Comments »

Thank you..

Posted by Pepper on August 7, 2013

For the prayers, good wishes, hugs, emails, phone calls, text messages and of course, comments. As usual, I am overwhelmed. Each time I am in need of a boost, I turn to my blog. And each time, I realise how this space never lets me down. Strangers turn into well wishers. Help is offered from unexpected sources. This has almost turned into a support group for me. Thank you once again. It makes me realise how I should not take my blog for granted. How I should not merely keep it alive, but let it thrive with regular updates. Because, what if these awesome people who always seem to be around now, decide to go away one day due to my silence? That would be a pity. So yes, I hope I keep this space alive for a long time, for selfish reasons.

I know I owe everybody an update about Oregano, but unfortunately, as of now, we still don’t have one. The hospital in which the biopsy took place has put us through a long wait. The wait for the reports has been painful. Especially when doctors have concluded that the kidneys are ‘badly damaged’ based on the ultrasonic scans. We have so many questions running through our mind, and most of them can only be answered after the biopsy reports are out.

Mint and I flew to Chennai mainly to be with my inlaws. Good thing, that. I can see how our presence is comforting them. My father in law was telling me about how worried my mother in law is. She barely sleeps. She is scared and upset. My mum in law was telling me the same thing about my father in law. “He tosses all night. He is not even able to concentrate on his work,”, she said. Might be hard for him, I suppose. He is an established Chartered Accounted. This being the tax season, he has a lot accounts, audits, tax work that he cannot avoid. And I know how hard it must be for him to get work done in such stressful conditions.

Trying to keep all of this under wraps has been our other dilemma. My inlaws are strongly against telling anybody about Oregano’s ailment. I am not sure I support this, but they believe telling people (including immediate family) will only make things worse. Word will travel. They will have to face a barrage of intrusive questions, Oregano will be showered with sympathetic looks which will only make him feel worse. So they do not want to breathe this out to a soul.

This would have worked. The only problem is, everybody, from immediate relatives to the extended family knew about Oregano’s planned date of departure for the US. Everybody wants to know. What happened? Why didn’t he go when his ticket was booked and bags were packed? Is something wrong? As of now, the common answer given to everybody is, ‘His BP was high. So we are in the process of some investigations’. I am not sure this is a satisfactory explanation though. People are puzzled and we can sense the suspicion brewing in their minds.

As for me, I have been more calm and accepting since what I was a few days ago. I have known people who have displayed immense strength and courage during worse times. They are an inspiration, and a reminder to remain positive. This whole incident has also unmasked the vulnerable sides of my parents in law. We need to remain strong and positive, for them atleast. And it is with these positive thoughts that I will go to bed tonight. After all, I do believe there is some greater good in this, even though we can’t see it now. Everything always has, and will continue to work for the best.

Posted in Meet the family | 43 Comments »

It is a strange life indeed..

Posted by Pepper on August 2, 2013

I am home alone tonight. As I type this, there is a lot going through my mind right now. All my thoughts are occupied by only one person – Oregano. For those of you who don’t know, Oregano is Mint’s younger brother. He is 6 years younger to Mint, and 3 years younger to me. He is extremely dear to me and the only person I wholeheartedly trust in Mint’s family. I’ve mentioned him on this blog several times, the first time was here.

Oregano completed his engineering, and like most kids, was pulled into a big IT company. Having a coveted name on your resume does not help, if your heart does not lie there. And his heart didn’t. His heart only lies in game programming. Quite a niche field, I thought. He wants to code and program games for a living.

We encouraged him to follow his dream. He decided to apply for a Masters program in Game Development in USA. From then on, it was all about inching towards the big dream. I remember going over and trying to edit his SOPs, discussing costs and figuring out tuition fees and finances with him. After about a year of preparation and application, admits from US schools starting pouring in. He was happy. We were happy. Finally, after selecting the school he wanted to go to, he quit his IT job. He got his US visa. He came to Bombay to visit us. We had some bit of fun and said our goodbyes. He went back to Chennai and his bags were packed. He was ready to fly towards his dream.

My father in law got him to do a routine health check up a week before he was to leave. The results have left us completely shaken. A random urine test revealed high levels or protein and blood in the urine. His creatine level was high. His blood count was messed up. The report from the lab suggested a kidney problem. They asked us to consult a nephrologist immediately. From then on, it has only been downhill.

The nephrologists were quite alarmed after seeing his reports. On doing an ultrasonic kidney scan, we discovered that both his kidneys were damaged. We are still awaiting the results of the biopsy, but from the other reports they saw, they said the kidneys at present are functioning less than 50%. Moreover, the damage is irreversible and unstoppable. This is a chronic problem, at most, they can only delay the damage. In future, he is going to need a transplant.

I have been in a state of shock ever since. Mint, as expected, is upset, but a lot more composed. I am unable to get over this. How can this really be happening? He celebrated his 24th birthday a week ago. How can a 23 year old have such an acute, chronic kidney problem? How could he have no symptoms at all? We happened to discover the problem quite by chance. What would have happened had this not been diagnosed now?

And for what possible reason would life back bite like that? He was supposed to leave for the US yesterday. He was excited. His bags were packed. Instead, he spent the day in the hospital. I hate this so much more, because somebody else who is very dear to me has suffered a lot because of renal failure. My dad’s brother who is another father to me has undergone hell. I’ve witnessed it all. From the diagnosis, to the painful dialysis sessions that took place thrice in a week, to his condition deteriorating, to finally a transplant that saved his life. And oh, I’ve also lived through the misery of not finding a compatible donor. In my uncle’s case, the doctors refused to allow my dad to donate, because his kidneys was not exactly healthy. And the horror of not finding another donor comes back to me. Thankfully, my aunt stepped up at that time and we managed to come out of it. But those memories are so painful. I can’t imagine Oregano having to go through any of that, After all, he is just 24!

I know I might sound sickeningly selfish, but the thought of Mint having to donate a kidney is equally terrifying. I would never in my life create a hurdle, or even ask him to not do it for his brother, but I can’t deny the fact that the thought has made me sick with worry. I am pushing these thoughts away. For all I know, that might never be required, despite what the doctors say? I hope.

As of now, we are waiting for the results of the biopsy. My in laws are very shaken and in a state of disbelief. We leave for Chennai soon. After we get there, we will try figuring out what line of treatment lies ahead, what the prognosis is and what exactly we should be doing. Please keep Oregano and all of us in your prayers.

Posted in Meet the family | 78 Comments »

 
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