Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Be afraid. Be very afraid. Boxed into a corner like so, I couldn't have pulled any manner of educated guess to discern which was right. That detonating could not be helped, see. Or else I would've timed at a record 45 seconds, give or take a few, with interruptions for applause. Guinness Book, here I come. *war cry*

A call from UNMAS is imminent, methinks. Or not.

Friday, February 23, 2007


... lights a corner of the dark

Not the torturer will scare me
Nor the body's final fall
Nor the barrels of death's rifles
Nor the shadows on the wall
Nor the night when to the ground
The last dim star of pain is hurled
But the blind indifference
Of a merciless, unfeeling world

Roger put on what can only be described as a life-altering event in a performance that was as visual as it was musical. In struggling to capture the essence of the show, I find myself at a loss for words to describe it in any meaningful way to anyone who wasn't there. "Epic" is one word that comes to mind and that is about as descriptive as I'll ever get.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Keeping in tone with Emarati Nickel & Dime's last post and in view of some recent occurrences at work, I decided to do a bit of my own venting.

As an intern, I learned early on that it's best to accept the fact that your workplace will depend on you to perform the menial tasks no one else wants to perform and all of it must be endured to earn the blood stains on your scrubs. But admittedly, when I first came on, I brought with me an innocence and nonchalance about the inner workings of the workplace and the hierarchical corporate culture, an attitude that took a massive blow only a few weeks into my internship.

Notwithstanding the unbearably long hours, interns more often than not receive no wage for the services they offer. But I like to think that sometimes the greatest perks aren't in the money or the requirement credits. Rather, they are in the experience. In mine, I have not only learned to put to use my sense of clinical judgment (or lack thereof) but have also been made aware of workplace culture, which is one of constant politicking and backstabbing. Our specie (of the unstipended intern) is no exception and we are known to take quite a few knocks along the road to "adulthood". Murphy's Law being what it is, combined with hospital bureaucracy, we get kicked where it counts, and then while we're down and out, we get kicked some more, just for good measure. I thought we were all equals. But it seems that some people are more equal than others.

I'm being harsh, but unapologetically truthful when I say that in losing sight of the line between being competent and streetwise, a lot of interns play Helen Keller to the blatant bias and bypass much of the abuse the system is designed to hurl at us by becoming bottom feeders in the ass-kissing stepladder. In medical terms, that makes me a complication because that sort of attitude only serves to send my neurotransmitters into disarray and I can't keep my mouth shut. That I have lasted as long as I have is nothing short of a miracle and I realize this as I choke back the Roger Waters line* which in essence states the same, if not in as much words.

An earthquake hits the theatre
But the operetta lingers
Then the piano lid comes down
And breaks his fucking fingers

*It's a miracle

Not wishing to end on a sour note, let me just mention that I can't wait for the highlight of my week to take the stage - Roger Waters. The gig is in two days and I'm biting my nails in anticipation as I listen to the soundtrack of my life - Amused to Death. How fitting.

Friday, February 16, 2007


In the days after my dad died many friends came by my place to support me in my grief. One of them told me how after his father died he'd always felt that he'd needed a few more years with him and that there was more to learn or too much left unsaid. I turned this over in my mind many times. And I decided it wasn't true for us. I wish that my dad had lived another ten years. But I think we understood each other. I think it was complete.

Yet, there are times when I'm reminded of the days when I was young and foolish. Last week, as I rummaged through a stack of old journals and papers in my bedside table drawer, I came across a note I'd written to a friend back in high school complaining about how I thought my parents were ruining my life. It brought back vivid memories of some of the despicable things I once said to my Dad under the influence of raging hormones. Today I'm sorrier than I can say. A father is his daughter's fiercest protector. While the daughter may not appreciate all that yelling and screaming; she should allow it to happen and be glad for his protection, because one day he won't be there to do it.

Following the death of my father, I found myself getting increasingly mad at him. Even in my sorrow I felt trapped because I didn't have him to share it with. I thought him selfish for abandoning me, especially after having devoted the entirety of his lifetime to us, his children. But now the storms are calmer and I know he didn't take leave of his own free will. It was his time. It's funny and sad and amazing all at the same time, the force with which life continues, even where and when death is impending or has happened. Within my own family, while my Mom was spending her days with my ill father, one of my sisters was getting ready to get married in a matter of weeks. I didn't think life must end or cease to be. But it must. Yet, life goes on.

In my line of work, you see people essentially having to watch a loved one die, inch by inch as their life ebbs from them - first losing coherency then being unable to recognize their own family as they slowly succumb to the disintegration of knowledge, memory and their friends with it; while becoming incontinent and experiencing all the other indignities visited upon the terminally ill. Consequently, they not only lose their loved one but also the brightest memories of them. Part of me is at ease because I realize I was fortunate to lose my own father quickly, painlessly, and without warning, so my memories of him at his best are intact and not overwhelmed by less happy ones. And as an adult living far from home, those times etched in my memory are perhaps more precious to me than the man himself.

My father did right by me. One of the greatest heartbreaks of my life is that he would not be there each time I hit a milestone in my life – graduation, career, marriage, and children. But even in the midst of the grief that crashes over me I have the satisfaction of knowing that my father lived long enough to see me make something of myself. And I know he was proud of me because as he lingered for three very hard days in the hospital at the end, he spoke of me between varying degrees of lucidity. And in all the years I knew my father I don't think there was any time I knew him happier or more content than in the final years of his life. Still, I worry. I worry and grieve about whether I made it clear enough while he was alive how proud I was of him, how much I loved him and how he'd been my anchor through my life. He meant so much to me that my fear of his death sometimes scared me away.

Dad, thank you for creating the spark that ignites the passion within my soul. And thank you for doing your very best, every single day. You earned your place in heaven.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I had always been adamant in my desire to never have children. But the first time I stood at my Dad's resting place, I decided that day to have a child. One day I'd like to be able to hold my baby and see the sparkle that was forever present in Dad's eyes. Someday I want to be able to tell my young ones stories of their grandfather and be laid to rest knowing their hands rise in prayer for me. It's the circle of life that I won't deny myself. Only then I'd know, out of all my wrongs, I did something right.

Visiting Dad now is always a sweet and sad reminder of the final months of his life and it makes me wish that I had the strength, humor and foresight my sister had when helping him face the end of his life.

Dad lived a long and, by all measures, full life. I knew even then before his death that every moment with this larger-than-life man was precious. He was the strongest, smartest and most accomplished man I had ever met. He worked hard and was eternally devoted to his family. He would help anyone that asked, and some that didn't. All of my life, I haven't ever been without. That was Dad. He kept giving.

I've spent many months struggling with and celebrating his imprint on my life. Since he died though I've realized how profound an impact he had on my life, how much he shaped me; how the main guideposts of my life were ones he put in place. How much I was, in a word, his daughter. Over the years, he made sure that I wouldn't make some of the mistakes he did. Others, he let me make on my own. The one thing he never taught me was courage, there, he led by example.

As a child, I never felt much need of him in my rush to explore the world. It was only as I was nearing the end of medical school and beginning to settle into this career and get comfortable with it that I longed for his advice and guidance on worldly matters, going through the nightmare called life. Even now, I yearn for his pride, his approval and just assume it is there. Whenever I remember him, I see a solidly built man, with the confident gait of a lion and a kid (me) strolling along in his shadow.

I knew my father for close to twenty four years. But in the months following his death I've struggled to know how to describe him to those who didn't know him. I can see him in my mind's eye. I can feel who he was. I remember the texture of his skin and all his unique gestures. Yet, I find it difficult to explain who he was, how to decide which details to pick out of the panorama of my life with him. The qualities I remember are his curiosity and his integrity, his gentleness of spirit. The sounds and memories are of his laughter and wit, his lack of cant or pretense, the way he called me 'Ashee'. But these recollections each stemmed from those first three qualities. He never had any real wealth and never held a position of power. But at every stage of his life he was surrounded by this web of devoted friends who gravitated to him, like something that grew up around him wherever he went.

When I was child I couldn't see this, or rather I didn't understand it. When we're young we treat everything we experience as a given. Only when we grow older and our horizons broaden do we see the range of alternative possibilities in life and start to understand who we and those around us really are. As I grew older and stopped seeing my Dad as the all-knowing, all-powerful figure I saw through a child's eyes, I saw him as a man. And I saw how people were drawn to him, loved him. I would come back home for holidays to see him in some new community or setting but with the same pattern always recreated. He would introduce me to the new people in his life. And they wanted to know me, in part I think because of what he'd told them about me, but more, I knew, because they thought I'd be some reflection of him.

You don't measure the life of a man by simple facts, simply told. It's been said that you measure it in the truths he learned, or in the times he cried, in the bridges he burned, or the way that he died. In his 63 years, my father learned much, rarely if ever cried, never burned a bridge and pretty much knew when he wanted to make his exit.

Here is how I measure my father's life. I measure his life in the warehouse of photographs, movies, and the trail of soundtracks he left behind. I measure it in the size of his hands. What I remember most about my father is his hands because from my earliest age, he held my hand in his and we discovered the world together. I remember my times with my father as vividly as a great piece of music where you know every word, every note, and every solo. You know it until it becomes part of you, until it becomes you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


And on this bed there lyeth a knight
His wound is bleeding day and night
By his bedside kneeleth a maid
And she weepeth both night and day
- Jeff Buckley

The loss of a parent is forever life-altering, no matter how you look at it. It dawned on me only yesterday that a good half year into the death of my father, I continue to blatantly refuse dealing with it. I know the time is fast approaching when I will need to grieve and sort through so many of the feelings that I've silently buried and locked away within me. Before today, I had never tried to make sense of the experience of losing my father, because in my mind the death of someone you love cannot be understood; only borne. But there is nothing I can do to cope, I can only exist, just plod along and wait it through. I miss him more than life is worth. I resent everyone with a dad and hate myself for doing it. I have learned so much, and regretted so much. I have reflected and pondered and am still at a loss. How does one even begin to talk or make sense of something so devastating?

On July 31, 2006, at an estimated 11:20 AM, only days before my graduation, my father didn't lose his life. He completed it. And as I knelt before his grave today, I did my own crying; not so much for his absence but for what could've been. I can still feel the vast empty expanse of the loss as fresh today as it was then. Only now, where there used to be pain, there is a scar - dried up and permanent. He was so central to my existence, yet, even now I still fear the thought of forgetting his face. Still learning that another month forward is another month without him, and that future events can only be made more difficult by his unfortunate absence.

In the weeks preceding my Dad's passing, I hadn't been home to visit much and six months ago yesterday; I got the call from my sister. My senior and I had just been wrapping up rounds at the male Endocrinology ward, preparing to take a much-needed break and rush on home as we'd both had a pretty rough on-call the previous day. I didn't think anything of it until I heard her speak. Her voice was broken and distraught. She said, "Baba" and then cried my name in a way I'd never heard before. I could tell she was crying for my pain. I knew. But even then I didn't quite know. There was still a split second trying to process what she meant. But 'process' is too methodical, it was more like a moment of desperate tugging and tearing at the words to see if I could find any way out. Any way free.

I froze, shocked by the news for a few minutes, just trying to mobilize into decision-making. Minutes later I called my Mom, her voice quaked as she spoke and that's when it slowly sunk in. That was the first moment I felt grief and sadness more than shock. My chest tightened and I felt my legs losing strength so I sat down at a desk in the doctor's lounge and put my head in my hands. Then I slowly got up to look out the window at the back of the hospital. I stared blankly in a daze of loss at the ocean as I spoke to my senior. I told him matter-of-factly because I couldn't think of any other way to say it. He walked me out and drove me 150 kms to where Dad lay.

Throughout the ride home I was unbelievably calm and was surprised I still knew what time of day it was after just having lost my best friend. The world was still functioning, the grass still growing, and the sky still blue as ever... everything was exactly the same. But it wasn't. An hour and a half after first receiving the news, I walked into a house that was vacant of my Dad's presence. He would usually come to meet me on the sidewalk, watching for me. This time he did not. Those first few minutes were crushing.

Where do you go when the only place you know you can go is gone? I stood there for quite a while. I didn't cry, in fact to this day I haven't found any tears for him. I just closed my eyes against that miserable scene and remembered his face and the warmth of his hands and the many hugs and kisses and smiles and words that told me so unequivocally and throughout my whole life, that I was loved.

I found the loss of my father very numbing. I had no emotion. I didn't talk, I just stared and comforted my Mom and siblings. I told them to be strong and that everything was going to be fine. I didn't know that. I just said it. It was more important for me at the time to make sure they were alright than to express any emotion myself. We react very strangely when a death occurs, this was my first and I was awestruck by the way I was acting.

They say the pain eases with time. No, it never does. The more time that lapses is the longer I haven't seen him and the more I miss him.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Ever since that day in July of last year I've struggled to talk about my father's passing in terms of how it's affected me. MN repeatedly asks me how I'm coping but I never can find the appropriate words, or any words. In searching my heart for reasons, I keep returning to the suddenness of my father's death. Then yesterday an old friend mailed me a beautiful poem he'd written for Dad and I was surprised to find how visibly upset it got me, which is clearly not what it was intended to do. I found this to be deeply disturbing and decided sleeping it off would make it disappear. Far from it, I kept waking up periodically with visions of Dad dressed in his finest Air Force regalia driving me to school in a 90's station wagon. Finally, I gave up trying to curl up and hide out, limped my way to the bathroom, splashed cold water over my face and got to thinking. Toilet seat epiphany - I haven't come to terms with my father's death.

After much pondering, I decided it might help ease the pain if I resumed work on the book I'd started months ago. Somewhere into its sixth chapter, I had tossed it aside leaving it to gather dust; not so much from lack of wanting but more from the absence of courage to beckon my demons surrounding the death of the king of our little kingdom. Picking it up where I left off would be too hard, I concluded; since I can't be expected to write on a whim, I need to be inspired. So, I decided the only way to begin making dialogue with my scared little inner child was to get it out of my head, if only for a while, by writing about it here. It might help me understand, I told myself. So today after returning from visiting my Dad, I began to write. But so far what I've written is riddled with incomplete sentences and only marginally coherent thoughts. There's not much structure to it. The topics jump around wildly and the individual trains of thought are hard to follow. At least what's on the screen resembles my current state of mind.

I am not sure what the true test of life is, but death definitely qualifies. My family is not the first to experience such sorrow, nor unfortunately, will it be the last but all in all, it is possible to go on to a place where it hurts less. And I'm going to go there if it's the last thing I do.

That's a start.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


"Allow me to take over compressions while you find something to make yourself useful."

If only I'd said that; armed with my meanest face which, according to some, is also my usual face. Alas, who gives an exam right after an almost-vacation? Have a heart!

One of the instructors today spoke like the bad guy in the Matrix. All slow and accurate. Mostly just amusing. And the rest seemed not the least bit annoyed at having to hold up to me the basic principle of all life support, time after time. Fair play to them.

Since I got to the hospital this morning, I've been sweating. I think there is a layer of dirt on me so thick that it won't come off even if I took at least 2 showers or autoclaved myself. Yep, I'm living the good life.

Got a headache. Hurts like a mother. I know some of you know exactly what that's like. Don't deny it. I believe a regiment of extensive napping is in order. Better conserve all my energy to play my big time at the PlayStation tournament, something I never cease to feel childishly gleeful about.

Day off tomorrow. Sweet.