Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Sense of Where You Are

I'm messing around on the laptop when I hear the phone ring. It's Hala, one of the other interns.

"Good morning! How are you?"

"Good and you?"

"I'm doing fine. Are you ready to go?"

"Go where?"

"The Farmers' Market? Weren't we supposed to meet at 11?" she asks.

Oh damn. I had completely forgotten.

"Oh yes, of course, I'll see you at the hospital at 11."

I look at the clock. 10:30. Rushing to iron some clothes and get dressed in time, I am a few minutes late by the time I meet her in the physicians' parking lot.

"Hi, how are you?" I say, climbing into her SUV.

"You had forgotten, right?" she confronts me cheekily.

"Uhm, yes," I tell her. "My memory's shot these days. I think I have ADHD." I've just finished a psychiatry rotation and am chockfull of diagnoses.

"What?! Rubbish!" she exclaims. "You're too old."

"No, about 60% of children with ADHD go on to have it as adults," I regurgitate.

She laughs. "If you have ADHD, then look at me. I have Alzheimer's!"

Hala and I have known each other for about a year. We started together as interns last July and have frequently worked with each other on the same team. Before she came here, Hala was a cardiologist in her own country. For more than a decade she practised adult cardiology before deciding it was really working with children that gave her heart pleasure. So she took her licensing exams and applied for a pediatrics residency position, accepting the first job that was offered her, her first interview. I once tactlessly asked her how old she was.

"How old do you think I am?" she asked capriciously.

"Mid-thirties," I replied, instantly recognising my mistake and trying not to add insult to injury.

"Oh! You are too kind," she said, patting my hand. "I am almost fifty."

It amazed me then (it still amazes me) how much enthusiasm she put in her job. Even on days post-call, when she'd been without sleep for more than twenty-four hours, Hala would be smiling and cracking jokes, sneaking down for a quick coffee and then back to work without complaint. I don't think I've ever heard her complain, like the rest of us did, about how difficult things were or how stressed out she was.

"I saw a beautiful plant that I wanted to buy for my apartment," she tells me as we pull into the Farmers' Market parking lot.

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yes, it's citronella. Very nice."

"Go for it."

We get out of the car and walk down to the stalls. Hala goes over to admire the flowers. I strap on my bhai-Pod, my constant, unwavering companion and head over to buy some fruit. The tables are decked in a spectacular display of spring colors that, after a winter of parched hues, make me feel suddenly, ferociously hungry. I stop at a stall and the owner invites to me try the produce. She has several rows of fruit laid out in front of her. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, all arranged in three neat tiers and begging to be bought. I taste a cherry and buy a bag, asking her to add a small carton of blackberries to it. The stall next door has nectarines sliced up for visitors to try. They are crunchy but raw and I opt for some oranges instead. In a few minutes I am laden with bags and enough fruit to last me a month. I walk over to the bookstall.

It's been a while since I was last at the market but the owner recognises me straight away.

"Hi! How are you?" he greets me.

"Good and yourself?"

"Good, thanks," he replies. "A couple of times these past few months I've come across stuff that I thought you might enjoy. Hope you find something you like!"

I thank him for remembering and browse through the shelves. It embarrasses me that I can't remember his name because he was one of the first people I got to know when I moved here. I used to come to the market pretty regularly back then, walking around the place, enjoying the festive atmosphere, the colors. The Farmers' Market always embodied a sense of community and for me, so new and unfamiliar to this town, it felt like an initiation, an act of moving in. I would walk around swathed in the smell of vegetables, heady with the sense of discovery.

"Find anything?" the owner pokes his head around a shelf to ask.

"Yeah, I'll take this." I hand him a book.

"That'll be four dollars. Would you like a bag?"

"No thanks, I'm good."

"How about a bookmark?"


"Alright, you're all set," he says, slipping a bookmark into my book. "Have a great day!"

"Thanks, Jim," I say, finally remembering his name. "You too."


Blogger Anjum (barsaat) said...

:) nice post kk. there are worse things than friends, farmers markets, and fruit.

12:47 PM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

thanks, anjum. glad you enjoyed reading it.

5:35 PM  
Blogger mystic-soul said...

bohut achha likhte ho....

(I loved bhai-pod!...the most hilarious thing I heard in months... Def. going to my post)

6:14 PM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

mystic-soul: thank you. i'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous iffat said...

i really enjoyed reading this post, and especially the ending.

7:28 PM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

thanks, iffat.

2:18 AM  

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