Sunday, August 19, 2007

Baap ka maal

I got my paycheck a few days ago. For weeks I had been dreaming of this glorious moment, when they would hand me my hard-earned cash and I would rush down to the mall and dutifully hand it over to the nice people at Macy's, Barnes and Noble and Baskin Robbins. The reality, however, was quite different.

I did rush over to the bank to deposit the check and then took the first bus out to the mall to make sure I had plenty of time to squander my earnings but when I got there, and as I trolled through the aisles, looking for stuff to take home, I found nothing was quite up to the mark. The shirts were too bright, or too checked, or too tacky. The books, well, when did I have the time any more to sit down and read a book. I liked books - they looked good and smelt clean and worked quite well as paperweights. Some were even useful as doorstops. But to actually sit down and read one. I didn't see myself doing that any time soon. And the ice-cream store, the one place in the world where wild bulls had to drag me away from bursting myself on all the thirty-wonderful flavors, well, wasn't all that bad for you? I mean apart from the cholesterol and the additives, didn't ice-cream, like, make you FAT? I walked out of the store empty-handed and light-conscienced, proud of my newfound powers of resistance.

And then it occurred to me, on the busride home, what a cheapo I'd suddenly become overnight. The past few weeks, until I'd gotten my paycheck, I was living on some money my parents had given me and I'd been spending it liberally. My closet was choked with clothes, the chest of drawers crammed with books and the garbage bin in the corner of my bedroom heavy with silent testimony to the nights of binge-eating. Why then this sudden change? I guess it all had to do with the fact that what I earned now I thought of as my own money, a precious and limitable quantity not easily renewed except through a month of difficult labour. My parents' money, on the other hand, was an expendable resource, plentiful and replenishable at the slightest phone call, easy to get and easy to spend.

The comparison made me laugh out loud.

The last thing she ate was a poptart on Tuesday

A few days ago I was signing off the morning after my call and I went in to check up on one my admissions the night before. She was a five year old who'd come in with a fever and we were trying to figure out why she had it. Fever of unknown origin presents a diagnostic challenge because, in the absence of any symptoms to localise the cause, a whole gamut of tests need to done to isolate an etiology. This child was one such case. She'd come in at about two in the morning with her mother, running a high temperature but with little else to offer us in the way of diagnosis. After our initial examination, the senior resident on call and I had sat down and ordered a list of tests, including bloodwork, for her so we could figure out what was wrong.

When I went in to see her in the morning, she was lying in bed, crying quietly to herself. Her mom wasn't there and I assumed it was because she was lonely and wanted her back. I went and sat by her side.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" I asked.

"I'm scared," she told me, trying to hold back tears.

"What happened?" Not the smartest question to ask a sick child alone in the hospital but it had been a busy night and after about one o'clock in the morning I'd lost the energy to debate the finer distinctions between the various teenage mutant ninja turtles to distract the patients while I examined them. Also, the sight of her, lying quietly in bed, sobbing to herself, had unnerved me and I was reduced to the most basic questions in an effort to undo what was bothering her.

"They keep poking me!" she bawled.

"Oh, dear," I said, stroking a wet cheek. "We're only doing those tests so that we could help you get better and go home. Would you like to go home?"

She nodded weakly.

"I'll ask the nurses not to poke you any more. Is that alright?" It wasn't true - the bloodwork needed to be sent.

"Yes," she said.

"Ok! Great!," I told her putting on a false voice to cheer her up. "Anything else?"

She shook her head.

"Alright, sweetie, I'll see you later." I waved, looking desperately for a stray smile.

"Bye," she waved back, too tired to smile.

Friday, August 10, 2007

This is to say

It's been a while since I wrote here. Work's been crazy busy. Thanks to those who still drop by.

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