Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On letters, facebook and others..

I am amazed at the advancement communication has made. Forget the day Graham Bell invented the telephone, I am amazed at how things have changed over the last two decades that I have lived.
Class Five: There was a concept called “pen friends” then. I would eagerly wait for letters from my pen friends in that red little letter box . The postman used to arrive home at half past eleven in the morning. Come Diwali or birthdays, there was more excitement. The sheer joy of seeing more than two greeting cards in the letterbox was something i always looked forward to. Computers were an unknown entity then.
When i was in class six, my father enrolled me for computer classes during my summer vacation. The first class of two hours was on how to switch on the computer. You first switch the cabinet on, and wait for green light to appear, then switch the monitor on, wait for orange and then the green light. At the end of the day they had a test, which every one had to clear, and i proudly told my dad that i had cleared the first test in computers. They taught me something called MS DOS where you typed a hundred commands( i still am not able to figure out its application: switching on the laptop and typing google is just fine) and then you took printouts of the commands in brown colored paper..The computer instructor would then correct each of the commands one by one, and award marks accordingly.
The landline telephone connection first arrived in our home when i was in class five. And how life changed after that! I would eagerly wait for my mom to go for that evening walk so that I could chat with my best friend for at least an hour. I discussed social studies with my friends, and also took telephonic viva just to check on how well prepared we were! There were other times, when my best friend and poetess recited poems and I used to be her best critic!
Within few years, I moved to Dharwad to do my dentistry, and the landline telephone became the most important means of communication. During my first year there was only one telephone booth in the campus to cater to five hundred plus students. We waited endlessly in queues (overhearing each other’s conversations) for hours, and finally when my turn came to make that call, i would run out of words because of the sheer worry that somebody else is waiting and staring at you through the tinted glass of the phone box. “Ok mama, everything’s fine, say hi to papa” was the only conversation that i mostly ended up with.
And then came the india telephone card. The funniest of the lot. There was one extra telephone in the hostel where you could use this card. You dial atleast twenty numbers atleast ten times spending atleast ten minutes only to realize that you have dialled the last number wrong! Please try again later. There was no “again” as there was somebody behind you holding another telephone card. By this time the only postal letters that i would get were from my father on how to prepare for an exam and how to relax before an exam by doing breathing exercises and eating healthy. The only letters that i wrote were to my father on why i needed that extra little money for the month.
By the time, i was in third year of my dentistry, emails arrived. The prospect of getting replies to my email within two hours thoroughly fascinated me. And there i was, at the college cyber cafe spending 20 rupees every three hours to check whether there was any new mail in my inbox. It is interesting to note that the first account that i opened with yahoo, is still my main email account. Internet explorer had just arrived, and i continued exploring the world wide web.
It was not before my internship that i got my first mobile phone. The mobile phone, if i were to describe it was slightly smaller than an ac remote control and had an antenna an inch and a half long. The brand was alcatel. One of my college mates felt it was large enough to stall the wheels of the dharmasthala temple chariot! Nevertheless it saved me the time and i spoke on it till the last fifty paise of the prepaid service was used. And then another recharge of fifty rupees.
Alcatel changed to Samsung, Samsung changed to Nokia and i was back in Dharwad for my post graduation. If there is one thing that i would vote as the best technological innovation of the millennium, it would be google. I felt empowered by this search engine. I could find all the pdf files that i wanted, download the best journals in the world, find all the favourite music that i wanted without having to buy any music cds, use wonderful images for my powerpoint presentation. How did they ever manage typing a dissertation with a typewriter i wondered. By the end of final year of MDS, my mom replaced my desktop with a laptop, so that i could study in the library. And what a boon it turned out to be. Though i had my desktop in my room, i became too lazy to turn it on as i could browse whatever i wanted on my laptop in the comfort of my bed.
At around the same time, social networking arrived. Orkut was a big rage then during my examinations. Social networking made it possible to connect to my friends world over, share pictures with friends. The time that i spent searching for scientific research articles, now was also spent on replying to scraps from friends.
Any technology or application, i have noticed, becomes popular or obsolete at the same time with all people. By the time i thought it was better on facebook, i noticed that most of my friends felt the same too. And most of the orkut accounts became inactive. I have also noticed that about Farmville. When i started playing the game, most of my friends too were on the same game trying to fertilize each others crops and posting their farm pictures on facebook. When i felt that iam wasting time, my friends too felt the same, around the same time.
My hp pavilion laptop now felt a little too heavy to be carried around. I am wondering if it has anything to do with the number of images i have stored in its hard disk. It is now replaced by a vaio netbook, but i would rather prefer checking my mails and facebook on my blackberry. I would rather browse the internet on my blackberry than switch on my netbook wait for half a minute for it to boot. Browsing on a blackberry has its own disadvantages. First of all, since it is so accessible you are so hooked on to it. I rarely watch television these days. The other day i spent half an hour watching a programme on discovery science and i felt thoroughly enlightened. Whoever called television the “ idiot box”. I wonder what he has to say about facebook!
As soon as there is a comment, i get a notification on my phone. Ten notifications in an hour is enough to keep you wasting the whole hour on the phone. A wise well organized dentist friend of mine only browses for twenty minutes in the evening and twenty minutes in the night. I wish i was that disciplined! These days you have an option of liking a comment. So instead of ten notifications you get twenty.
There was a time when people managed without any phones at all, and these days everyone has two mobile phones each. One for office, one for personal use/ One for patients, one for personal use/ One for local and one for STD: reasons for carrying two mobile phones are plenty. There were days when there were no phones at all and people got lost in the melas to meet after good twenty years, and these days you feel insecure about going to a grocery store without a mobile phone!
With all the changes that have happened over the years, the way we communicate with each other has drastically changed. But there is one thing that has not changed at all over the years for me. The excitement, whether it is another letter in my red letter box or another notification on facebook, has just been the same. Though I would love to receive a hand written birthday card with a postal stamp on it

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Every year on the 24th day of September i set out in search of a gift for my mom. This year i just found a priceless piece of photograph in one of my photo albums, twenty seven years old!

Happy Birthday to you, Mom!

Each year I’m extra happy on your birthday;
Your day reminds me of God’s gift to me--
A mom who gave her all to raise me right,
A mother like the one I want to be.

By Joanna Fuchs

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Finally i decide to blog...There are many reasons for not blogging for so long.I am a very visual person who believes in ‘seeing is believing’ rather than ‘ reading is believing’. I’ve always thought posting images is much easier done on facebook or Picasa rather than on a blog.

Secondly I am a person whose writing is concise and to the point ( Perhaps that is the reason why i was not among the highest scorers in descriptive subjects ) . But now that my confidence is inflated thanks to my dear friends on facebook , i am typing already! If Amitabh Bacchan has been blogging for a couple of years now, its high time that i start right away :) My professor and HOD friend in endodontics will be extremely unhappy if she would come to know that i am writing a blog rather than writing my research article, but never mind...There is this strange happiness that you derive when you do things that you aren’t supposed to be doing. I used to love watching cricket ( even if it was the quarterfinal of a test series, even if i don't like the game) just one day before my exam. I watched the whole of Sholay for the second time, just before my tenth standard boards, though i was never a hindi movie buff. This is one of such pleasures.

Now let me stop my excusitis for not blogging and talk about Eyetis..
It is a word coined by me( patents pending), because i don’t like the use of any other words that is used to describe it: “ Conjunctivitis”, “ Eye flu”, “ Madras eye” or “ Pink eye”. I thought let me find a more subtle word to describe it, just in case i get affected by the highly contagious infection that has continued to haunt me for few years now.

If there is one thing that scares me it is the virus. I am scared of this little infectious particle, not because it causes a variety of deadly diseases, but because it is one of the only living species that makes man repeatedly realize how helpless and not in control he can get in front of them. Be it a silly running nose or life threatening AIDS, there’s nothing much that can be done, once this creature gains entry into our system!
And there are reasons, why Iam continually haunted by eyetis. There are memories that are painfully etched in my mind of the infection and the stigma that came attached to it. I guess, everybody treats an HIV infected person with respect, thanks to the etiquette that the education system has taught us “ They are no different people. Treat them like humans”. But when it comes to Eyetis, i guess everybody forgets their manners, and just runs away.

The first time it hit me was when i was in my internship, in the department of pedodontics. It was school vacation time in May, with lots of interesting children patients coming to the department. But there were two other thing that came that season along with the kids. Flu and eyetis.
There was a filling in a front tooth of a five year old child that i had to do. As soon as i realized that she had eyetis, a hypochondriac that I am, i politely refused. My professor who was doing his usual rounds saw this and made sure that i took up the case after shoving it into my head that i was the most unprofessional doctor to refuse a patient.
Predictably, pink striae started appearing in my eye by evening( that's why i believe it is called Pink Eye). My friends who said a “ hi” by shaking hands, stopped doing so and kept a distance of two feet from me. By late night, my eye opening on the left eye was restricted to 1mm. I woke up the next morning only to find myself at the wash basin trying to open my left eye for half an hour. I am eternally grateful to my roommates, who even once did not give me a feeling of being unwanted or being infected. And some of my fondest memories of convalescence are in room # 133. It was a Saturday, and though you cannot afford to bunk on a Saturday because of the heavy load of patients, i was immediately quarantined to the Isolation room where they deal with difficult children.

Saturday was also a day when they serve you ice cream in the mess in the afternoon. Our combined mess, meant to cater to all the students of the hostels, was a large one. However it used to be extremely crowded on a Saturday afternoon because everybody gets back from college at the same time.( also probably because they serve you ice cream). Though there was enough and more seating arrangement, you always had to wait for your turn to sit on a crowded day. This Saturday, the mess was especially so. The waiting queue almost extended till the stairs of the mess. So i had to wait for another fifteen minutes before i finally found a chair to sit.
The moment i sat on a chair, a very strange thing happened. Five chairs next to me on either side got vacated instantly. I thought everyone must have finished their lunch, so i looked around, only to find the standing queue still extending to the exit door. But no one would want to sit near me. I quickly gobbled my lunch and ice cream in embarrassment. I faintly remember this story told at school about how Dr. BR Ambedkar was made to sit next to a tied goat away from the rest of the class and treated like an outcast. Today i was treated like one. I thought the whole ordeal would last for three days max, so i was glad that there was a Sunday in between. By Monday, i realized that my right eye just caught the infection from the left. So that made it another four days for the right eye to heal, hence a whole week of eyetis. When i was finally out of eyetis, i was so glad that a difficult funny phase of my life was just over.

Seven years have passed since then. I am now a practising dentist in Gurgaon. I again hear about eyetis doing rounds this monsoon just before the commonwealth games. I ignored it all this while until the dental technician who comes to the clinic to collect the impressions, comes wearing jet black goggles. This is the beginning of problems i thought.

“ Stay away from him,” I tell my dental assistant. “ I don’t want you to catch this infection. I have rootcanals lined up for the whole week. I cant afford to get eyetis again.” He laughs, but tells me that he’s been avoiding sitting next to him in the reception and having a chat with him.
Dont even go to the reception area when he is around.” I advise him. “ I have a very important patient who is flying here just to get his rootcanal fixed this Tuesday. Imagine me calling him up and telling him i cant do his rootcanals because of my sore eyes! Avoid!”

The more i try to avoid something, the more it haunts me. True to this rule, my dental assistant turns up to the clinic the next day with small red eyes. In my fit of anger, i gave him a good piece of my mind on ignoring my advice to stay away from the lab technician. My assistant says “ abhi kya kare, jo ho gaya hai uske barein mein kuch nahi kar sakte..”

I resigned to my fate of spending time with the dental assistant in a closed space of 12 square feet. I sent him to the reception area for most of the time that i was in the clinic. I set an appointment with my ophthalmologist and asked her for prophylactic eye drops. I continued using the placebo eye drops for three days, until my assistant’s eye became better. I asked him to wear a pair of glasses, only to find that he too had bought the same kind of jet black big goggles with golden side rims. I wonder if the virus spreads by just looking at the redness in the eye that everyone buys these stupid looking glasses. My patients would run away , had they seen him with those black goggles. Imagine, getting treated by a dentist with an eyetis patient half a feet away from you suctioning your mouth!. So i asked him to avoid wearing those black goggles now that his eyes had drastically improved.

“ Stay away from the dental assistant” i warned my driver. Imagine my driver getting eyetis and me resigning to fate of spending time in the closed space of an air conditioned car waiting to get infected by him. “ Haan, mujhe pata hain!” “ Didi, meri biwi ko bhi aankh ka infection huwa hain

Now who can stop me from getting infected i wondered. My driver instead of returning home went to his brother’s house for two days to avoid the infection. I began calling my dentist friends to tell them that i may have to tentatively cancel my root canal appointments at their clinics as i may get eyetis in another two or three days. A wise senior dentist smiled and told me that conjunctivitis only affects you once. I instantly took his words. I would love to believe his words. After all Tuesday was just three days away. This very important patient had to be treated at any cost!

On Saturday i developed a slight running nose, which got converted to a severe sore throat by evening. By Sunday i developed temperature and my eyes were slightly red. I kept looking into the mirror inspite of my fever just to see if there were any pink striae in my eyes, but there weren’t.
I took a course of heavy duty antibiotics just to make sure Iam fine by Tuesday. On Monday, i could barely walk, but by Tuesday i was up and ready for this root canal that i waited for so long.
At ten past ten in the morning, a man wearing jet black goggles walks into the dental office and shakes hands with me “ Hi, Iam scheduled for a root canal in your office!”..
Not again!:)