Oct 2, 2020

Remembering the Mahatma

Today morning I woke up weighed down by the political developments in the whole world. In one place, an egocentric bully is shouting down his opponent. In another, a power-hungry dictator is doctoring his country's elections and poisoning strong members of his opposition. Yet another wants to distract its populace from the consequences of crop failure, industrial backlash and other problems by threatening the sovereignty of its neighbors.

And here in India, the common man's last hope, the judiciary, has irrevocably gone to the dogs. That has been the unkindest cut of all. It was with all these burdening my heart and head that I sat down for my morning yoga practice. And this poem burst almost fully formed into my head. It flowed, like a soothing balm over my seared mind and put me back on an even keel. It was only later that I remembered that it is the Mahatma's birth anniversary today...

So here it is...

How I long for a leader...

Who embodies the virtues of justice, service to all and harmony

Who does not mow down, shout down or quietly poison his opponents

Who, even while being devout and religious, can see the good in all creeds

And see the needs and wants of oppressed humanity

Whose strength lies not in brawn, networking or TRP ratings

But the courage of his conviction and principles

Whose tenets of frugality, simplicity and truthfulness

Can ever withstand the test of time

Who doesn't need to posture and prance or create fake news

But gives up positions of power to serve the needy.

Alas, the world has produced only one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

I hope that if the world has been capable of doing this once, it can do it again. That more will come bearing the spirit of this great leader inside. That there will come a time when the forces of Chaos are in abeyance. That there will be harmony, neighborliness and a world in which differences will be a subject of celebration and wonder rather than inspiration for hatred. 

Meanwhile, what can the common man do? Make a conscious decision to stop spreading hate. Stop making yourself small by assimilating the hatred messages. Recognize that the voice that tells you to hate your neighbor is manipulating you for its own selfish ends. Realize that hatred always breeds more of itself and there can be no end to it, once you give in. 

Bowing before the memory of the Father of our Nation...

Aug 7, 2020

Homeopathy at work at Karthi

The recent ruckus regarding the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies and ayurvedic medicines against Covid-19 is the inspiration for this post today. It seems that allopathic doctors are all riled up due to the state government recommending the use of homeopathic remedies as preventives. It is clear that they fear that these remedies will fail and that people emboldened by having taken the preventives will go out indiscriminately and cause a wider spread of the disease. I can understand their fear. 

What I write here is not a defense or condemnation of any branch of medicine. I also know just enough of the three major medical systems to know that each has different theories of how diseases are caused and how they can be dealt with. My aim is just to show you why I do not think that homeopathy is complete hogwash as some people think and reiterate. If you check the Wikipedia page on homeopathy (which some knowledgeable homeopath should consider rewriting soon), it will show a completely biased outlook favoring allopathic medicine and calling homeopathy a "pseudo-science". I wonder how there are medical colleges all over India that teach this pseudo-science!

The main accusations leveled against homeopathy while I was growing up were that:
1. It is very slow and healing takes a long time, even in the case of colds and flu.
2. You can't trust homeopaths because they give powdered allopathic medicine to speed up recovery.

It wasn't till 2015 when I heard the talk of a renowned homeopath presenting a program on TV that I started thinking of taking homeopathic treatment for my pre-diabetic condition. And that good doctor happened to be my husband's classmate and dear friend. Although we had known him for so long, it was a classic case of familiarity breeding indifference (not contempt, never). Here are a few instances of how he and his wife who is also a gifted homeopath have helped us over the years.

1. My younger son developed small white patches on his skin. I took him to a physician nearby who recommended vitamins and a lotion. Two months, no change. Next to a dermatologist at a reputed hospital. He prescribed a high-dose antifungal medication as well as an ointment. Two weeks later we went back with no change. This time he wrote out a list of six medicines. I was chatting with the pharmacist and casually asked her what all these were for. She said she didn't know the uses of any except one that was for itching. That puzzled me because my son's condition didn't include that symptom. Coming back with the meds, I did a detailed online search. What I found really shocked me. Two of those medicines were carcinogenic and banned for pediatric use. One would cause intense itching as a side effect (so that was what the anti-itching medicine was for). One was a high-dose steroid. When one of those meds was used, the user was to avoid sunlight (we weren't informed of this). Since I was already taking homeo medication, I rang up my doctor and tentatively explained the situation and asked if he could help. My son's case was taken over the phone, the medicines arrived by mail. Within two months, the condition was gone and has not returned.

2. My elder son developed eczema-like sores on his feet and lower legs. I thought it was due to his playing outdoors and applied topical treatments recommended by our local GP. Then I noticed that he was developing thick, raised, dark skin over the healed areas and wherever he had lacerations on his skin. This time I immediately called my homeopathic doctor who asked me to send him photos. He diagnosed it as lichen planus - and sent medicines immediately. But he also asked us to get it verified using a biopsy and blood test. For the test I had to go to a dermatologist. The list of medicines he gave me of course included a host of medications both topical and to be ingested. This condition has no cure in allopathy. So our elder son is on a long-term homeopathic treatment for the same. He still has dark scars on his skin from the early flare-up, but since then, nothing. 

3. One morning I was aghast to see that my urine was blood red. Needless to say, I panicked and called my homeopathic doctor. He directed me to start drinking water, ordered blood and urine routine tests as well as an abdominal ultrasound to rule out uterine bleeding. Yes, I had severe urinary tract infection. The medicine was twelve drops of a remedy in half a glass of boiled water. The doctor then educated me on the symptoms of UTI and told me to take one dose of the same medicine if I felt any of those symptoms coming on. This was amazing for me because after our trip to Rameswaram and Dhanushkoti in 2013, DH had fallen ill. He was first misdiagnosed with flu and treated only with Paracetamol till he was in a very bad condition. When we got to the hospital he was diagnosed with UTI and had to stay there for a week and take high-dose antibiotics to recover.

4. I got dengue fever in 2017. My homeo doctor recommended testing for dengue after she listened to my symptoms. After confirmation, I took only homeo medications and recovered completely. My blood platelet count was below normal only on the day I was diagnosed. On conducting regular followup tests on the doctor's recommendation, it never went below normal again. 

5. In May 2019, we visited a temple town in Karnataka. On the overnight train journey back home, our younger son felt nauseated, had a stomach ache, started vomiting and ran a slight fever. I did my best to soothe him and avoid dehydration. Reaching home, I called my doctor who asked me to give one dose of a remedy. The kid was up and asking for lunch by noon time. Over the course of the next week, the rest of the family developed symptoms of the same disease in varying degrees. My elder son and I escaped with mild symptoms as we took the remedy immediately when we recognized the symptoms. DH was caught outside escorting visiting family members around the city when he developed symptoms. But he too recovered within 12 hours of onset, with just one dose of remedy. This would not have been remarkable if not for what we learned on a visit to relatives in December 2019. A group of ten or so of them had been to the same temple town in May 2019 around the time we had been there and had all been felled by the same symptoms for at least a week each. Three of them required several days' hospitalization due to dehydration and high fever. Even family members who had not gone to the temple town caught the infection and were prostrated.
6. Before starting taking homeopathic treatment, I used to get colds at least once in a month or two and at least two or three times a year, these would blow up into infections (bronchitis, sinusitis and whole hosts of other itises) that would require the use of antibiotics. I am glad to say that I have not needed antibiotics for the last three years, touch wood! At the least sign of colds, I call my doctor and take the recommended remedy. I have found that if I catch symptoms early, just one dose can heal me. If I neglect the symptoms till they are worse, I might need three days' worth of remedies. But that is usually enough. 

7. I once ate fried dried shrimp in a chutney. Two hours later I started choking. At the time I had no cold or any other condition, so I connected it to the shrimp and called my doctor. She told me to take a dose of a remedy and wait to see if the choking sensation eased within ten minutes. It did, I could literally feel my air passages opening up again.

Of course these are only the more spectacular instances and I could go on. It has not been easy to adopt homeopathy for our ailments. Social conditioning has a lot of influence on us. DH who is a worry wort, tends to keep asking me, "Should we go to a doctor?" several times during my illnesses or the kids'. But over the years, he too has become convinced of the efficacy of homeopathy. These days, I can tell that his question is more out of habit rather than actual anxiety. 

Here are the things that I feel are different about my homeo doctors:

1. Detailed case-taking at the beginning to analyze each patient's idiosyncrasies.
2.The use of modern lab tests to confirm diagnoses rather than depending on just the listing of symptoms as in classic homeopathy.
3. Immense patience and readiness to accept the skepticism of patients.
4. Exact documentation on the progress of patients' conditions.
5. Their use of the Target Super protocol that they developed with years of clinical practice.
6. Telling the patients the exact names of the remedies, in most instances. I know this is usually not done mainly to avoid self-medication and consequent inefficacy of remedies. But since my doctors do not live in our town, we consult mostly over the phone. Therefore, we can actually be sure that we are not taking "powdered allopathic medicines."

My personal philosophy regarding the health care of my family has now expanded to include homeopathy in all instances except in dire emergencies or acute infections with sudden onset. I believe that homeopathy has a lot to contribute to medical care. In fact, once the era of antibiotics is over due to the development of superbugs, I believe we will have to turn to alternative medicine, especially homeopathy for help. I hope that all branches of medicine can be brought together, forgetting their differences, so that the most appropriate and effective treatment can be provided for each disease. The first step in any medical course should be the acceptance of other medical branches as well.

Therefore, in these Covid times, I am not very scared. At the slightest cold-like symptoms, I turn to my trusted doctor for help. But even with this ready help at hand, we strictly practice wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing. And we don't go out unnecessarily even though we miss meeting our friends and family members.

If you want to know the basic principles etc. of homeopathy, you can take a free Udemy course: Introduction to Homeopathy by Ellen Bench, D.Hom, Homeopathic Master Clinician. It is very interesting and enlightening.

Jul 13, 2020

Working from home? Avoid this as much as possible!!!

One thing I have envied among several of my DH's admirable traits is his ability to drop off to sleep quite quickly. Once he decides to sleep, he folds his hands on his forehead for a few moments of prayer, then arranges himself on his back with his fingers neatly interlaced on his chest or lies on one side. The next thing you know, he is off gamboling among the sheep on the grassy meadows in the land of Nod. It doesn't bother him even if the light is on or there is a panchari melam going on outside our window. He prefers having at least a night light on and music playing in the background as he drops off to sleep.

In fact, this was one bone of contention in the early days of our marriage. I need pitch darkness and absolute silence to relax and sleep. After my prayers, I first have to lie on my right side, rest a few moments and then turn to the other side before I can drop off to sleep. Even then the goddess of sleep is very picky about granting her boon to me. "Going to bed after 11 p.m.? Toss and turn for half an hour!" she will curse with glee. "Couldn't put the book down till midnight before courting me, eh? Lie there, listening to the night sounds for one more hour," she will chortle. And if I watch a horror movie any time of the day? She will flounce off altogether, allowing all the horrendous characters of the movie to lurk in the corners of our bedroom, staring at me with glowing coals that are their excuse for eyes. And I will be left, clutching a slumbering DH's slack hand for reassurance and chanting the ten names of Arjuna to keep me safe from fear. She is so fickle that sometimes, even without any reason, she will just refuse to appear.

So it was with great surprise that we both noticed that DH was lying awake for long stretches in the third month of the lockdown. He started complaining of very fitful sleep. He also complained of getting up several times during the night. One night, I got up to find him on the living room sofa, watching a football game's highlights on his phone. "Hey, that is my thing!" I told him, meaning the vigil on the sofa, of course, not watching football. I don't do anything except read on my sleepless nights.  

I put it down to the stress of the times. After all, he is snowed in with work and absolutely misses our trips to his family and traveling in general. He also misses not going to the theaters to watch movies. I thought that all that was playing havoc with his peace of mind. DH is a great worrier even in normal times. But even in periods of greater stress than this, I had never seen him lose his sleep. Soon, his sleeplessness affected me too. Even though I religiously kept to an early bed time, turned myself as per my schedule, etc., I too lay sleepless. I tried to blame my sleeplessness on the new extra-bright LED streetlight that had been newly affixed near our gate and even plotted throwing a stone at it.

But last Monday morning, I was practicing Sudarshan Kriya when it suddenly came to me. (This has become a somewhat regular occurrence of late - I get ideas and solutions while doing Kriya or Sahaj Samadhi meditation). The brainwave was this: our bedroom is being affected by too much work energy! When the lockdown started, DH started working in our living room. Gradually, he started shifting to the bedroom post lunch because he wanted to leave the living room free for the kids to watch TV. Our younger one, would initiate the "transfer protocol" the moment he finished his lunch by carrying DH's laptop and other accessories to the bedroom without being told, so that he could start watching TV that much earlier. 

Even when June rolled around, online classes started and our kids' TV watching was restricted to after 9 pm, DH was still shifting work to the bedroom after lunch. Understandably, his shifting guy now had to be asked to help each day! The hunch that I got was that all that work was destroying the relaxing atmosphere of our bedroom, robbing us of our sleep. Therefore, I asked DH to remain in the living room the whole day instead of working in the bedroom. 

I am very glad to report that DH and I have been sleeping much better since the change. The first few nights were still rather restless ones, but there has been definite improvement. So much so that I have decided that the new street light will be safe from me for the time being. So if any of you have a bedroom doing double-shift as a home office and find yourselves having trouble sleeping, try working from another room and banish all work-related paraphernalia from the bedroom. Wait at least a week or two to see if it works!

Last Saturday, Chunchu and Pirate, our visiting cats brought us some more company and introduced them to the food bowl at Karthi!

They were both predominantly white, with little to distinguish between them at first glance. In a textbook case of inverted racism, I lamented the fact that we never seemed to get kittens or cats with more color to them than this "boring white". The cat family left and then came back with a new addition!!!

The white kitties have a brother!!! We promptly named him Jack after Susan Branch's kitty who appears regularly on her blog. So one of his sisters simply had to be Jill! The other sister has slightly longer hair fluffed out all around her, so we named her Fluffy. Just look at the three posing near our sanitiser bottle!!!

Here is Fluffy trying to climb our screen when our Lab Goldie made her first appearance in their lives! As usual, on her evening run, Goldie tried to come up the porch steps to meet us, but Chunchu and Pirate blocked her at the top of the steps and hissed and swiped at her. Goldie could easily dispatch both with a lash of her tail, but our goofy Lab beat a strategic retreat rather than get a scratched nose. 

Aww, aren't they cute??? Please feel free to gush over the overload of cuteness! Pirate is quite nonchalant about her brood. And we are so happy that we have got to see Akrami's grandkids!

All three kitties have already learned that the kitty bowl at Karthi is always stocked up with snacks. All day yesterday they rushed in whenever they heard the front door open to restock on food after all the combat practice they put in together. Even today morning, all three rushed in by themselves! For the time being, our garage is their home. 

Already they are exhibiting unique characteristics. Fluffy, as you have seen, is scared easily. Jack is always looking for nooks to explore and Jill is feisty. She played football with our elder son, talked back at DH when he refused to allow her to jump up on the sofa and sat calmly for a few moments in my hand and looked me directly in the eyes before indicating that she would like to get down. Her siblings were pure scrambling panic when I picked them up. Jack has two little white mittens and knee socks on his hind legs as well as a white shirt front and pink nose. He is so adooooorable! 

Be advised, if they like Karthi enough to stay, there will be more kitty pictures coming your way!

Jun 27, 2020

Best among my reads in 2020!

Wow! I just can't believe we've completed six months of 2020—the year I was so looking forward to... But as I had written in the first post, this year certainly has been momentous!!! We have all been subjected to an unprecedented event that has had all of us—even the home-loving introverts like me—scrambling to adapt and adjust. The new norms are bearable, but still take a lot of getting used to—like suddenly having to be a partially homeschooling mother to big children.

The one thing that has not changed in these cataclysmic times is reading. I still thrive on books. On physical books, on Kindle, whatever! Even in the seeming calm of not having to go out of the house, sometimes my mind finds it tough to switch off at night. That is when I creep out of bed and curl up with a book, reading into the wee hours of the night. 

If you look at my reading list for this year, you can see that it's a hodgepodge of all kinds of books. I have been reluctant to tell everyone about the books I read for fear of judgement. Especially because I have certain friends who read nothing but the most literary and mind-boggling books. I have become wary of asking them for book suggestions because the result is often akin to being hit on the head with one of those huge volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. This year I have decided to make my reading list public, shedding all inhibitions! 

Here are the ones I liked the best among the books I've perused this year:

1. Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino: I am savoring my way through this author's detective fiction. Its pace is slow and soft, with plenty of brain and little action - a lyrical poem of a murder story. Last year I read The Devotion of Suspect X. Usually I gobble up any series that I am enamored of. But this, I am determined to take in slowly.

2. Martha's Vineyard - Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch: This multifaceted artist whose handwritten books are so adorable, completed her autobiographical trilogy with this one. It had long been on my wish list and I finally  succumbed to buying it this year. Chronologically, this is the second book of the lot. This and a Fine Romance are vying for the first place in my heart! Each of her books is a treasure for always. First you read it for the story, then for the lovely handwriting, then the quotes, then the artwork... it simply gives and gives!

3. A Job You Mostly Won't Know How to Do by Pete Fromm: A bittersweet story of a widower bringing up a newborn, trying to keep things together with help that is both wanted and unwanted, fighting depression, and trying to stay solvent at the same time. The tragedy is tempered with humor. The wild Montana landscape is as much a part of the protagonist's life as are the people in it. Looking forward to more Pete Fromm.

4. Open by Andre Agassi : I was a firm Agassi and Steffi Graf fan in my teens. This book should be read by all the youngsters who want to take up sports at a professional level. Of course, one doesn't need a scary father like Agassi Sr., but the dedication, the patience, the tolerance for pain and mind games... Granted, some of Agassi's criticism about famous sport personalities feels a tad bitchy, but hey, everyone is entitled to be the hero of his own life! Really worth reading. Perhaps one should  read Brooke Shield's There was a Little Girl too along with this.

5. Seven Secrets of the Goddess by Devdutt Pattanaik: Pattanaik is fast becoming an authority on Hinduism—the ever-evolving religion that expands indefinitely to envelope many beliefs, philosophies, deities and methods of worship. In this book, he examines the evolution of the worship of the feminine principle in Hinduism, the Goddess in her myriad forms and expressions. A true eye-opener. 

6. Shunya by Shri M: A novel about a holy man written in simple language, propounding great ideas. So easy to read that one might miss the gems that are embedded in it. 

7. A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C A Fletcher: May be not the most reassuring thing to read in this pandemic era, but I was intrigued by the title. The world's human population dwindles due to a mysterious malady that spread a few generations ago. The world inhabited by Griz is sparsely populated and strangers are not always welcome or trustworthy. Then Griz has to leave his tiny, safe island to find his dog. The post-apocalyptic world is exquisitely detailed. Thrilling and lyrical. A beautiful twist at the end. What more can one want?

8. No Regrets by Kaveree Bamzai: The book's subtitle says it all: The Guilt-Free Woman's Guide to a Good Life. The book speaks to educated and employed women in somewhat affluent circumstances. The author provides advice for women who are tugged apart to bits by job and family responsibilities. The points she makes are valid and the presentation is so attractive that I liked the book very much even though I am a confirmed, voluntary stay-at-home-mother. 

9. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: This is the book I like the best among those I have read this year. Usually I avoid Russian or Russia-themed books. It must be a reaction from having tried to read the classic Russian novels in my early teens and being put off by all the complex nomenclature of the characters. It seemed to me that they kept changing their names from paragraph to paragraph just to muddle me and I often had to go back to the beginning. I have never finished the Brothers Karamazov even though I tried valiantly several times. But I am happy that I overcame the aversion to read this one. I got the Kindle edition, but I have put the physical book on my wish list. Because I want to go back to the Metropol again and again, dip into the little attic room, run along the service stairs, have dinner in the restaurant, served by Count Alexander Rostov himself... A wonderful story of inventiveness, adaptability, courage and sheer joie de vivre.

10. The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson: The title is long enough for a book! I came to know of this when Dr. Shashi Tharoor recommended it in an interview. Although we first get to meet Allan Karlsson when he does the thing described in the title on his hundredth birthday, his subsequent adventures are interspersed with episodes of the extremely colorful life of the man and the circumstances that have led him to bunk his birthday celebrations by climbing out of the window. The story reminded me of Forrest Gump. I look forward to reading the sequel.

There it is! I have limited myself to these ten even though there are many more that I more than just liked in the list. Hope I have whetted your appetite to try one of these!

Jun 12, 2020

Two finished projects

The past two weeks at Karthi have been busy with the kiddos returning to some semblance of schooling. The end of May and beginning of June saw us scrambling to get electronic devices suited for both to attend either live classes via Microsoft Teams (elder) or recorded classes via the school website (younger). Naturally, we have cut down TV time to after 7 pm and Prime only on the weekends, just like school time. What with the transition and new routines to plan and implement, my creative output suffered. But this week I got back in the groove.

Back in February, I had written about a tapestry crochet bag that I was making. The original design was for a tote that had handles that wouldn't take any weight. So I changed my project into a backpack, but found myself in uncharted waters. I had to create a flap, sturdy straps, affix these correctly to the body, attach a magnetic clasp, make a lining, and make pockets for the lining. I was in creative overwhelm. The new things needed a lot of fermentation time in my head, so I put the project aside and completed a crochet scarf and made a few masks. 

Proceeding in baby steps, I first found a very sturdy, double-layered crochet stitch for the straps. I made a smaller version for a loop that would serve to hang up the bag, then attached them to a crocheted rectangle and then sewed and crocheted the whole on to the back of the bag. 

Once that was done, I turned my attention to the flap, which I needed to taper to a point. Crocheted a few rows each day, gave it a contrasting border and and ta da!

Next, I hunted up a salvaged magnetic clasp from a dilapidated wallet and attached them with the help of some denim fabric because I didn't want to attach the prongs to the crocheted part.

The sewing of the denim patch on the flap wasn't as straight as I would have liked it to be as you can see from the picture below, but hey, I am a recovering perfectionist and the job was neat enough. The opening is of course the drawstring that I designed by myself. 

Finally, I found a length of cotton in my stash that had complementary colors and sewed the seams before hand-stitching it to the bag. For the pockets, I used the back pockets of a soft, stretchy jeans that I had massacred to make masks. 

And here is the bag with some books in it for ballast, on Ani's shoulder.

On the whole, not a bad job for a first-time bag-maker, hey? 

When I was finished with mask- and pocket-making from my old pair of jeans, the only part left was the waist band and the front pockets. So I made this...

My "house uniform" of salwar-kameez has a great drawback. It doesn't have pockets. At Karthi, you can often hear me requesting people to find my phone, because I leave it all over the house. This "belt", worn over my salwar, now keeps my phone near me all the time. The only problem is that my brain has not yet registered that this is my phone's new home. Yesterday, someone called as I was cooking and I searched the whole kitchen for my phone without realizing that it was safely ensconced in my pocket! 

As for our garden and yard, the monsoon rains have brought out the grass and weeds in full force. I have been subduing them with my weed-trimmer. I hated the thought of taking out my trimmer, because it has a bad habit of flooding very often. I always followed the correct procedure, using the choke sparingly. But after a couple of sessions, it would flood and respond to no amount of persuasion. Earlier, this meant a 30-km drive to the nearest Stihl service center to get it firing again. This month, determined to fix it myself, I searched and found a YouTube video and learned how to do it. If air was solid, it would have had several holes in it from all the punching I did the day I restarted the flooded engine by myself! So now the grass will not get a chance to grow higher than a couple of inches around our home. 

In pandemic-related news, each Saturday when we go out shopping, we find more and more people out on the streets, mostly wearing masks and giving wide berths to each other. But things are more lackadaisical closer to home, with neighborhood boys playing together outside and even elderly people wandering around without masks at our nearest junction. At Karthi, we are still in full vigilant mode. The kids have been so understanding of conditions and have adjusted much better to the lockdown than I had ever expected. That is something that I am very grateful for. DH did go to the office a couple of times to see what it was like. But he missed the hot tea and snacks that I provide at his table even if he is in conf calls. Both days he came back home hungry and crabby! So for now, he prefers working from home. 

That's all from Karthi for the time being. See y'all next week!

May 23, 2020

And today I realised...

I was gearing up to tell you what the denizens of Karthi are up to in the fourth phase of the lockdown. Then I checked the date and it rang a bell. I went back to the list of posts and went to the very last page and found... Yes! It has been ten years since I started blogging!!!

Why am I excited? Because it is very seldom that I stick to something productive and good for me. As many of you know, I am the queen of procrastination hereabouts, but another dubious distinction that I own is that I have a very well-developed case of startitis - the sufferers of this syndrome have multiple started projects, almost all of which are incomplete or still in the starting stage. 

But I must tell you that I am slowly coming out of that condition. Proof? This month, I completed one whole year of practicing Art of Living's Sudarshan Kriya without break. Today, I am on Day 390. Additionally, I have also been meditating daily for twenty minutes for 193 days. This year I completed two month-long daily-writing challenges, the second of which took slightly more than a month to complete 😊And guess what, I even painted the guest bedroom within a week with the help of my elder son!!!

This is what the room looked like after we took several heavy duty scrubbers to it.  Two years ago, when our labrador was a puppy and we hadn't built a kennel for her, she used to stay in this room. The result was a brown band all around the room at puppy height, which no amount of normal cleaning could remove. Thankfully, this was a project that was planned before the lockdown and we had all the essentials ready when the world went into a standstill.

The helpfully labelled box on the right contained leftover supplies from my first painting adventure about which I have written here and here. And now the room looks like this:

It is now a soothing mauve and is crying out for new curtains, which I hope to provide it with sometime when the world has righted itself on its axis once again. 

Meanwhile, back to my blog, I checked out the very first post of Not so Perfect Karthi written on the 20th of May, 2010. As I read it, I thought I would take you - all my readers - with me on a journey down memory lane. So here are a few posts that I liked and some that you liked (which I can see from the traffic, of course.)

Let me take you first to the post that garnered the most hits. I was in a very bad mood when I wrote this post, but as people took it up and started sharing their own experiences, I realized that I had written about a very important issue. Here it is: Thoughts of an Ordinary Malayali Woman

Geckos are still high on my list of enemies. Just five minutes ago, one startled me by making having a ruckus with its boyfriend and rushing from its hideaway to my floating shelf of books. The hussy!!! I have quite the mind to tell her off for the stains she leaves on my books - but I was the idiot in the first place to have merrily installed the floating shelves, so I think I will keep quiet. To know our history, you can read: 'ello 'ello Gecko Speaking

The description of a trip we took to Rameswaram and Dhanushkoti seems to be the favorite among  my travel posts. Here are my personal favorites: Hampi, Lakshadweep, Gavi  and Kallar and Meenmutty waterfall. The last one in that list shows how we used the first form of an app that we take so much for granted today - it is almost like opening a time capsule! Of course you can access all of them by clicking the Travel label

Then there are the umpteen movie reviews that have always have had a fan following, and slightly less popular ones about books. The parenting posts gave me a fit of nostalgia, thinking of those simpler days when it was so much more easier dealing with the kids.  Blessed Peace, Another Precious Year!, What does it take to make you happy? and Is this what parenting is all about? are a few of my favorites in this section.

Ah, I have been wallowing in all the memories evoked by reading all those posts while writing to you about them. It's almost midnight! The house is quiet, I can hear the rain-welcoming frogs croaking outside. No doubt several geckos are waiting to waylay me as I go to the bedroom. But I have to brave it unless I want to sleep in my not so comfortable writing chair. Goodbye for now! Hope I have given you something to enjoy!

And yes, a HUGE THANK YOU to all my readers for sticking with me for the past ten years! Couldn't have made it so far without you!πŸ˜πŸ’“

Apr 25, 2020

Living with anosmia

Yes, that is supposed to read the way it is written, I was NOT trying to write 'amnesia'. "Anosmia", as Google tells me, is "the loss of the sense of smell, either total or partial. It may be caused by head injury, infection, or blockage of the nose." That pretty little nose you see in my profile picture? Yes, it is only decorative in purpose, because I do not have any memory of sensing anything by way of that organ. Ok, I will not say that my nose is just decorative because it does help with holding up the specs that my high-myopic eyes need, it serves to humidify the air I breathe and keep out a bit of the dust.... Oh well, I just meant to say that I have not been able to smell anything for as long as I remember!

Legend has it that my Dad used to stuff my nose regularly with Vicks Vaporub due to my excessive affinity for all kinds of common colds that came my way. I must have been a serious sleep deterrent with my constantly stuffed nose! Anyway, according to the ENT my family took me to at the age of five, intemperate use of this topical ointment was the culprit. Henceforth, my Dad was very careful to rub Vicks only on the exterior of my nose when I continued my friendship with colds. There is no scientific evidence for the ability of Vicks to cause anosmia, so let me go on record here that I completely exonerate my father of any culpability in this. 

The second and last intervention was in my early adulthood when another ENT took it upon himself to get me back my missing olfactory sense by any means possible. He made me take enough zinc tablets to galvanize a small ship and also did some cauterizing and left my poor burned nostrils stuffed with cotton wool for three days. Nothing came of it. Even today, smells are as complete strangers to this nose as ice is to the Sahara. I will not bore you with a list of smells that I cannot sense. The nearest thing I know to smell is when I paint my nails and I have a burning sensation when the nail polish is right under my nose, unlike my female relatives who can smell freshly painted nails half an hour after the fact.

What brought my attention back to my "disability" was a discussion in my writing group that is led by Dr. Manu Remakanth. He is currently conducting an online writing workshop with a series of videos, the first three of which have dealt with how to use the sense of smell and descriptions deriving from it in one's writing. One of the exercises that he gave us was to list some smells and the memories that were tied to them. As you can guess, I couldn't contribute anything to the subsequent discussion. Description of my anosmia led to people sharing that it could cause frequent hospitalizations and near-death situations. This led me to think how I have coped with my anosmic condition so far in my life.

I think one of the greatest aids in coping with a disability is having a good support group. No one in my family or among my friends has teased me or looked down upon me for my lack of smelling prowess. No one has played any pranks on me for the disability. I have always had people to smell things for me if I was in doubt of anything.  My sister was always ready to conduct a sniff test of me or my attire. My sister-in-law and DH help me choose perfumes. My kids always smell food that is doubtful to tell me if it is still good or not. They can also tell me whether there is any smell of leaking LPG. My friends would walk with me past the Chem lab and tell me I was lucky that I didn't have to deal with the rotten-egg smell of hydrogen sulphide gas. They never said,"Oh poor you, because you cannot smell 'this or that'."

The second thing that has helped is counting the advantages that an anosmic nose gives me. To this day when I am talking to pregnant ladies who are complaining about the myriad smells that make them vomit, I am able to smile smugly and tell them no smell ever bothered me and I never had to vomit even once in both my pregnancies. If envious looks could maim, I would have to be carted around in a wheelbarrow by now. The same goes for when anyone in my family has stomach flu or such. DH gags when he is hit by the smell of vomit anywhere, while I can go in and take care of vomiting children and 'accidents'. Last August, when a stray dog died hit by a motorbike across the road in front of our house, it lay there festering for 18 hours and no one would go near it due to the smell. I dug up a pit in my upper yard, got my son to help me to carry the body and buried it. My son was heavily muffled up, even so he had to keep his face averted. I don't think I would have been able to do that if I could smell normally.

In fact, my sister-in-law (who is slightly hyperosmic) tells me that my anosmia might be a big factor in the success of my marriage because she usually flings away an item of clothing worn by DH and tells him, "It's a GOOD thing your wife cannot smell." And it is also a good thing that DH is a teetotaler, so I don't need to play detective with my nose to find out what he drinks. Taking things to another spiritual level, if the control of the senses is the sign of a good yogi, I have things quite easy. What with my faulty eyesight and my non-working nose, I only have three-and-a-half senses to control in the first place! 

As far as the literary device of evoking memories and sensations by describing unique smells goes, both in the appreciation of this device and in using it, I am certain that my imagination can cope with it even without having experienced smells. For instance, a good writer can make a person who has never seen or touched snow feel it just by describing it. Similarly, I can model myself on several literary giants who have crafted wonderful olfactory pictures to create something unique on my own. Besides, I have a host of smell stories in my community that I can always borrow and improve upon! And if I am in doubt about the smell of anything, my sister-in-law is one of the best olfactory resource persons on earth.  So I do not see the lack of the olfactory sense as a handicap in the literary field either.

No doubt I have missed a whole dimension of the physical world by not being able to smell. May be, by not having the ability to tie memories to smells, I have lost quite a few unique memories as well. But looking back, I can see that I have been immensely blessed in the disability that I was burdened with. So, if Mephistopheles himself were to come and offer me a good, perfectly working nose with retrograde effect in exchange for any of my other senses, or in exchange for my loving support group, I would give him a cold eye and a scornful lip and sashay away in absolute disdain.

Remembering the Mahatma

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