6 February 2018

“Memento Mori” !!

This afternoon, I was at the hospice in the Memory Care Unit. I was a little early today. There were a lot of them in the common area. Not all of them were my patients, but I interact with and help all of them, anyways. Or at least, try to.

I had one of those powerful moments today. One of my patients – we will call him Mr. “L” today – who just listlessly walks and has no ability to understand or talk was doing his up and down rounds. After walking with him for some time, I rushed to help one of the attendants who was trying to help a patient yelling in pain (turned out to be a simple issue that was fixed quickly). When I turned back after fixing the problem, I noticed that my friend had walked up to another patient who was in his sofa – let’s call him Mr. “T” – and was blankly staring at him. Now Mr. T has no memory, repeats the same things, will laugh at you weirdly but is very cordial. I was expecting a very awkward moment. (my patient – Mr. “L” also drools all over the place – making a mess of others). But, in a flash of near normalness, Mr. T asked Mr. L – “How are you?”

You have to understand the import of the moment. None of them are “normal” by the normal definition of “normal”. They see each other many many times a day, although I am not quite sure they remember. Just when I was getting worried about a awkward moment when I have to clean up drool, the purportedly recipient of the drool – calmly greeted the soon-to-be drooler!! It was like he was more worried about his friend’s well being than being drooled upon.

I have noticed this among the ladies too. They are in very different state of coherence and cognition and many are outright upset, but put them in a table – and they always look out for each other. They will ask how the others are doing. If we are late in bringing yogurt to somebody at the table, the rest will create a din till their compatriot is taken care of.

It is an amazing feeling. It will make you wonder – where is all this cognitive power when it really matters? It is like they know they are at the hospice center for a few more days but they are determined to live the rest of their days in the best possible human way that their physical state will allow them.

A simple “How are you?”. Often the last words some of them will ever hear. Whether they can process it or not.

The difference though, is in the fact, somebody asked them. Like I said, whether they can process it or not.

In “On the Shortness of Life”, Seneca says… “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”

Put in my way, let’s realize that we will all go one day. That we cannot change. What we can change is what we do from now till that day!

“Memento Mori”!! Remember that you will die!!

Acceptance of mortality can be a downer if one focuses on what one has not done or gotten. And yet, it can be one of the lightning rod for happiness if we leverage that acceptance to make us who we want to be in the days that are left.

That is a choice we have to make every single day.

What is your choice today?

9 January 2018

Scored 100 percentile???

All the Indian newspapers are touting the results of CAT exams. Most are running headlines about how 20 students including women and non-engineers have “scored 100 percentile”. See the picture as an example.

Here is my question – as somebody who had to pass CAT long time back – how the heck do you score 100 percentile? I can understand 100 percent. But percentile?

Wasn’t the definition of nth percentile score that n% of the population was lower than the score? (It was strictly less than and not less than or equal to). Which is why I thought we were always taught that you can be 99 percentile… 99.9 percentile… but you can never be 100 percentile (by definition, you could not have scored less than yourself).

So, what gives?

1 January 2018

Fountain Pens from Kolkata!!

Managed to escape from family for a couple of hours in Kolkata and check out some pen shops. This is the city where I had grown my passion for fountain pens and colorful inks (started with two Wingsung Hero pens I had bought in Garia). I brought my father in law too. I did not have time to go to the “Pen Hospital” where one can pick up some really old time classics. Instead settled for a couple of Sheaffers including a Ferrari 300 series from William Penn. I even got the pen shop owner – Jeet – to take a picture with me to celebrate his first sale of the year!

Roger, I can’t wait to show you the pens!!

31 December 2017

As with every year, I wish you enough!!

It would never be the start of a new year for me if I did not send my “I wish you enough” message like every year. Again, credits are to Larry who had “wished me enough” for the first time many years back.

“I wish you enough!”
By Bob Perks
———————–
I never really thought that I’d spend as much time in airports as I do. I don’t know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I’m not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports.

I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to “hello” and “goodbye.”I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you.

I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.

Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.

On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, “How are you today?” I replied, “I am missing my wife already and I haven’t even said goodbye.”
She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, “How long will you…Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!” We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye.

But I learn from goodbye moments, too.

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you. I wish you enough.” She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.
“I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”
He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”
He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!

22 December 2017

Existential question

As difficult as it might be to believe that I went to a party and stayed till midnight, it pales in comparison to the following jaw dropping realization I had on my drive back… Not a single selfie was taken during the whole party!!!

The well-conversed in Bengali parties in Atlanta area surely will sympathize with my confusion around an essential existential question …

If, during a party, not a single selfie was taken and posted in Facebook, did the party really happen?

🙂