Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chumbak Turns Five-Congratulations!

  “It is just a wallet!”

Amma grinned.

“Whaaa...t! It is CHUMBAK!

I remarked and sulked into my ‘boohoo’ mood under the rug on that sleepless night. I had lost my wallet during a BMTC bus ride, a high probability occurrence in Bangalore. This happened a fortnight ago, a typical theft episode, an impecunious looking lady carrying a baby on her waist was standing behind me in the bus while I was about to get down at a stop. Before I felt her hand brushing past my body the bus was gone, so was my CHUMBAK wallet! While I was my worrywart self with the process and procedures of lodging a FIR and blocking my ATM cards I consoled myself thinking of how the money may help that lady feed her child, but what I couldn’t get over was the other loss. The wallet was very special; I do not know how to explain this connection. It was not a gift, it did not have any photographs or memorabilia yet this incident made me feel like an important part of ’me’ was gone. Over a period of time we get attached to the things we use, things with which we identify ourselves, for example that particular cup in which we like our coffee or the pen we use for a signature. At least people like me do. This was something of that sort. The grief was quite but obvious.

What happened the following day was a one in a million event. An another lady called me around noon saying that she has found a wallet with some cards in a drain near her house, it took me a while to believe her.

“How does it look like?” I askedwhen his eyes fell on it.

“Orange and white colour Madam, with birds flying” she replied.

That had to be my ‘Chumbak Kabutar Wallet’! I was on cloud nine at that very moment. . I was so frantic about the whole thing, my feeling was the sooner I get it back the better. I noted down her details and a friend of mine was kind enough to ride through the gullies and got it from her place in a couple of hours.The wallet, well is now back home. Frankly I am very scared to use loose it again and hence have locked it in my drawer :-) I did share this experience with the Chumbak team by writing a mail and hopped on to their website to order some new Chumbak stuff :-)

When folks and friends look at all things ‘Chumbak’ that I own the usual comment is:

“Ah! Wait a minute I know where it is from…”

CHUMBAK has now turned five, and when I look back at the oldest and fondest memories where do I begin? Years ago I came to know about the initiative in Bangalore by word of mouth. A couple of friends told me about a new range of products which had everything Indian about them. So when I visited their website, the Indian in me HAD to get curious. I had this gut feeling that this one is going to get trendy, particularly the illustrations and characters. The ‘Indianness’is completely relatable. I am a fan of sweet sarcasm, especially when you know where to draw the line. And thus started my love story.

 My Chumbak Stuff  :-)

I am not the kind of person who goes on an online shopping spree but with Chumbak it is different. Be it my first purchase, the ‘7 Blunders Of The World’ poster me and my best friend own, one each in our rooms because it is something we firmly  believe in; the ‘Best Brother’ coffee mug I gifted to my brother on his birthday three years ago, I still cannot forget the smile he gave(which he gives on rare ocassions!) when his eyes fell on it; the huge ‘You Know You Are Indian’ tin I use to store everything important under the sun; the ‘Street Food Tin’ and ‘Mithai Tin’ I use to store everything except sweet and candies; the ‘Kabutar Wallet’ and ‘Cat Tech Wallet’ which store more than what I earn, and the latest addition to my Chumbak collection I am yet to wear and flaunt, the ‘Birds In Love’ scarf and a gift that I have got for one of my juniors from my medical college, a  ‘Decorative Elephant Phone Case’ for her iPhone, well I have loved them all.

“Di, mujhe bhi Chumbak chahiye!” she says whenever she sees any Chumbak stuff of mine. She will definitely be happy when she sees it like I always do when I see my Chumbaks. Here is wishing you fifty and hundred more anniversaries Team Chumbak, grow and spread the Indianness across the world.

Picture Courtesy


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Swine Flu- Lessons From The Lab


The phone rings for the nth time in the laboratory while everything and everyone are up to something, all are doing their duty to help the patients of the hospital which I can vouch is always more than their individual capacities. 

One of my technicians picks the call.

“Hello Namaste, Microbiology” she says.

While the machines run and beep continuously, a technician receives samples, another processes samples, and an another attends an another call on the other telephone, a few patients wait outside for reports, a housekeeping staff of one of the wards waits inside for reports, a clinician calls for reports, a reporting desk assistant enters some reports, and I one of the microbiologists verify some reports, in the midst of this routine she comes to me with the cordless with quite a dreary look.

“Ma’am please speak to this patient, she is asking for her H1N1 report”

I take the call.

“Hello how may I help you?” I ask the patient out of habit.

And the rest is to be swallowed, in the name of the Hippocratic Oath.

There are times such as these when we get to hear from patients the most absurd things possible to a point that they question the credibility of a doctors duties and what I understand of such difficult situation is this, if there is someone who has to show a great deal of patience it has to be the doctors. It can be nobody else.

With the ongoing H1N1 epidemic we have lessons to learn, and believe me when I say 'A LOT'. If you were to pick up a newspaper and read about ‘swine flu’ which I am sure has more than one column nowadays, you may find information on these lines:

‘Death toll rises to….’

‘’ has ‘x’ number of positive cases, and ‘y’ number of deaths

The fear is but obvious. I wish we paid attention to reverse of the coin as well. The working of Indian health care system, especially our preparedness with dealing such an epidemic, the availability of antiviral drugs and vaccination-the pros and cons; when to take them, why to take them and who should take them. The problems, more so solutions to the problems, these are the issues that need to be addressed. Even if they are, the point is that they are not very precise. As a result the pressures and forces acting upon the health care providers are more of social nature than medical due to this trepidation created. We are letting this run us as if we do not have a judgement of our own, well until the next epidemic.

Diagnostics and therapeutics are central to the working of a hospital and no doctor would risk his patient’s life by delaying a test. H1N1 testing is a molecular test, done by a method called Polymerase Chain Reaction and only a few laboratories have the setup and authorization to run this test, thus the logistical problems. Although automation and technology has reached the highest level possible in diagnostics there are areas which are new to us doctors as well. When the workload reaches a threshold, the maximum that a laboratory can do is increase its working capacity through various means, that’s exactly being done in the testing centres across the country. This scenario was quite unexpected in these places too. It is relatively easy to put the blame on the working of a system although some complaints will have the truth in them, thanks to the commercialization. 

We must not forget one thing, a diagnosis that would not have been made otherwise is now scientifically understood and medically treatable. There is no sensibility in hitting the panic button for the wrong reasons. This all the more gives us a good opportunity to confront the reality of the influenza virus. A common cold may not be a common cold after all. The antigenic shifts and drifts, the pandemics and epidemics are not for history, they are here to stay. Let us face it together!


The cordless on the table rang again.

“Namaste, Microbiology, how may I help you?” I asked.

“Doctor, I wanted to know my daughter’s H1N1 Report” came a query from a father at the other end.

I remembered his voice, the same man who had called at least five times the last evening. How could I forget the fear and anxiety in his voice, and that of the mother’s whom I could hear from behind? I searched for the status of her report as eagerly as him. Doctors are definitely humans, at the end of throughout the day.

I am doing mine, are you?


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

World Is But A Wonder Island

Last night I had a DREAM.

There was this man on an island, and the rest is not in my memory. I was, of course under the might and main of a very interesting but difficult question offered by Blogadda.

“…what if the world could be remade, your way? If you were the creator who rebuilds the world, what kind of world would you build? What would you retain from this world? Which parts would you demolish and rebuild in a new way? What kind of world would you create that makes you exclaim with pride and happiness Here’s The World, Remade! ”

The last time I was in this state of eternal dilemma was during my MD exams an year ago when four examiners were looking at me with four different expressions for every answer that I gave them ;-) I have spent almost a whole fortnight after Blogadda came up with this activity. While I inquired friends and folks about what kind of world they want to live in, some were quite pessimistic for obvious reasons; hope is the last thing they have. Many of my blogger friends have come up with some excellent practical and philosophical ideas. I have a slightly outré take on this matter.

We live in a world with plenty of space, it’s a spacious world despite the seventy one percent water. More than anything else we have been given countless opportunities and chances through this course of evolution. If we had to strike a balance we would have long ago, what say? A greener planet with all seasons, a world without borders, people without religions, houses without poverty , women without struggle, men without trouble, children without hunger- well the very fact that these issues make it to our ‘TO-DO-LIST’ if we had the power of the creator to rebuild this world, this tells us a lot about why we have gone wrong where.

Restoring greenery, getting birds to chirp on the trees, letting the rivers flow is none of our business. They would be better without us and our interventions, I agree to what Blogadda says-we belong to the world more than the world belonging to us. On the other end if we are talking about providing better living conditions,  and human rights to all the people of this world we are entering a conflict zone again, it does not take long to give up on something and compromise, does it? Our signs of omission and commission on this planet are too grave to be readdressed. Do watch this Steve Cutts video on ‘MAN’, for a better picture:


A building here, a bridge there
A flower or a tree nowhere
O'my fellow men and women
Look at the how the world has become

Not every alien is a PK right :-), the ending in the video is quite a formidable thought. While I pondered with a flight of fancy over the great idea of ‘demolishing’, ‘rebuilding’, ‘retaining’ and ‘creating’ this world if I had the power; the man of my dream, well before you get it any wrong- the Robinson Crusoe look alike on his ‘Más a Tierra’ was back again. This time with a sensible vengeance, for keeping him lost in my thoughts.

“Girl, why don’t you strand every man in a small island and just let him be?”

He had a point. What if the continental drift happened in such a way that we all had an independent piece of land, one for each. Nobody and nothing else on it. No Eve for Adam. She would have a land of her own. And he would have to swim across the seas and oceans to reach her, she would have to wait for him for days and nights. Love and life would have had a deeper meaning then, more than a mere accident.  One cannot help feeling that there is something more utopian and silly about this idea, more than the ‘restoration’ and ‘beautification’ we all wish to make in this world. But well, as far as this blog post is concerned I have the power ;-)

The power of the creator is too divine to be underestimated and exploited. If I were the creator, I would have a slight change in my plan unlike the current scheme of things. I would make it a tad bit difficult for the Homo sapiens here, each one surrounded by water on a tiny island and I would see all of them evolve from scratch. All the humans would not take all corners of the globe and say this belongs to us. It would be interesting to sit and watch them under this strange kind of stress unlike the ones of now- ‘Oh I gotta get some fuel’, ‘My wife needs a ring’,’ I need to earn more’, ‘ Let me check the stocks’, ‘This is my last drink’. It would be a great show. Over the year people may still build bridges and row boats to meet each other, that would require effort and therefore it will be valued. More importantly the other flora and fauna would be spared to some extent, anyways there is nothing much that they need from us. Sustainability would then have some meaning. On a contemplative note, we are yet to concentrate on the loopholes of our coming to being. We are on one hand very fortunate for some qualities we own.  Ideas, intelligence, knowledge, energy, dignity, feelings and emotions are what that defines humanity. I wish to retain that in our species- the real sense of  ‘HUMANITY’ towards each other and the rest of the beings in this world.  

‘No man is an island’ but put him on one and he will realize his blessings. What Gandhiji believed as blunders would definitely turn into seven wonders of the world- ‘wealth with work, pleasure with conscience, knowledge with character, commerce with morality, science with humanity, worship with sacrifice, politics with principle’. And that would be everyone's real pride and happiness!

While people prefer posters of their favourite sportsmen or filmstars in their room, no matter which house or room I move to, this Chumbak one always has a place on my cupboard. This is just a constant reminder for myself.  If I cannot make the world a better place, I do not have the right to make it worse.


 PS : I am participating in the #TheWorldRemade activity at BlogAdda in association with India Today #Conclave15 .