Monthly Archives: June 2012

When you discover something you’ve always known.

Ok, so I started this post in a very different way than it’s now turned out. I started in the same old crabby tone about my parents and their unwillingness to change, something that has frustrated me over the years. Visited them this summer – they’re older, more stubborn and ever more determined to be independent.

So when I started writing about them, it dawned upon me that this unwillingness was actually something to be proud of, really. I cannot believe I am saying this, but it’s true. I mean here they are like a pair of wounded soldiers – dad has rheumatoid arthritis, blood pressure, stent in his heart, blind spot in one eye, a deteriorating red-blood cell condition with an unpronounceable medical name, mom has high blood pressure, osteoporosis, a terrible back and spine and my obstinate dad for a husband – but they refuse to make the changes in their lives that I think they should. And you know what, after this trip and many fights, I finally saw their point. Well, I’ve seen the point earlier too but this time I kind of realized that they are special in being determined to carry on despite age and ailments.

I realized on this trip that I’ve always known my parents to be strong, both mentally and physically, but this time it sunk in in a way that it has never before. And I think such a realization can only come when you are a parent yourself.

My trip sort of started this way:

“Do you want me to give up and sit at home and age even faster?” asked my dad at my suggestion that he not drive on the highway anymore. “No”, I bit my tongue “I never said that Pa. Drive in the city if you want, but the highway…” He, of course, didn’t wait for me to finish and launched into this rant about how he knew what he was doing and ended it with his all-time-favourite one-liner: “I am not stupid”. Well, I said, I knew that but sometimes there is a fine line between being independent and being, er, foolish. The fact that I’d used foolish as a synonym for stupid was not lost on him. He then continued to declare to my mum in this self-destructing manner that he was going to give up on life because that is what I thought he should do! AAAGGGHHHHH. I wanted to pull my hair out! My poor mum got in the line of fire and I kicked myself for letting that happen.

Dad sulked for about a day after our fight. Till I apologized, at the prodding of my mum and my own guilty conscience, for what I’d said and offered some sort of an explanation. He didn’t seem too convinced, yet was reluctantly happy that I’d broken the ice (we both have the same egos – I get mine from him!) Anyway, long story short while I was there I realized this one thing: they want to live in the way they want for as long as possible and no matter how silly we kids think that is, that’s the way they want to be and we should respect that.

So my trip ended this way: (which is how it pretty much ends each time, with me feeling like a rat for having lost patience and having fought. This time though there was all that now-you-take-care-and-forget-the-fights kind of parting, there was also the I-know-you’ll-do-as-you-wish-and-that’s-ok thing that I said to my dad)

When I was leaving, I hugged my dad, as he winced in pain, and I cried. Lots (again, kind of normal when I leave home). My older daughter and mom joined in this tearful separation of course. I wished they could’ve come back with me for a few days.. I told Pa to be careful when he drove, to not tire himself unnecessarily to see the doc regularly and follow his advice. I knew he would do none of that, but I said it anyway and he nodded. We both knew he’d go back to doing exactly what he wished, detrimental as it would be to his health. He’s almost eighty and is not going to change now.

I drove away feeling proud of my parents, of their will-power and determination to take on life and live it on their own terms (actually ma lives it more on pa’s terms but then I cannot change that fifty years after they married!)

They sleep in pain and wake up with it. Yet they carry on doing what they must, ma will water the lawn and drive to the market, pa will go to the bank every two days(refuses to get an ATM card – has deep reservations against plastic) and buy vegetables on the way back no matter that he cannot lift the bag. They are almost eighty and don’t want to slow down. I hope they never do.

Kudos to you old folks. Even if I have half the strength of mind and body when I am eighty I would be blessed.

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Is it me, or has it become impossible to drive without cursing?

Now I know that the title of my blog does not inspire much confidence in my anger-curbing abilities, but I have to say that driving Delhi can test the patience of a saint. And, since I am no saint (no kidding?) I can safely say that when the kids are not with me in the car I use quite the choicest language to vent my extreme irritation at macho-men (they wish) who think that cutting off a woman on the road is a show of their (diminished) masculinity! 

Is there anything more irritating than some ass overtaking you from the left and then cutting you off! I swear it makes me maaad! My instinct is to overtake him, screech to a halt (filmy style) in front of his tacky white car with dark-filmed windows, pull him out by the neck and wring it! Delhi, sadly, is full of such men and it’s made driving hell.

So the other day, when his cool-ass was zipping around lanes like he was in a video game, I spotted him in my rear-view mirror and decided that I would not let him cut me off. He was right behind me, honking, flashing his lights et all. I stayed in my lane since I was in the speed limit of my lane and saw no reason to make way for him (and there were cars in the next lane anyway). He grew restless, tried to overtake from the left, could not, then decided to stay in between the two lanes to look for a squeeze. I was not about to give him an inch (still honking). Then he got his chance and overshot from the left. Except a little ahead was a camel cart (kind of normal on Indian roads). The camel was puffing along testing his ability to beat Delhi’s heat, nose up in the air, quite oblivious to the restive man behind him. So now our man was stuck with the happy camel in front of him and yours truly on his right – both, for quite different reasons, completely locking him in and frustrating him further.

I pressed on the gas, drove up to the bumper of the car ahead in a deliberate bid to not allow the dude to push me aside. If the camel gave way I was fine with that, so really, it was between the two of them as far as I was concerned. Of course, our man didn’t see it that way. Frustrated as he was with the animal, the caretaker of whom was blissfully asleep on the cart, he had a bigger problem with me. His male ego had been bruised. I upped my music to alleviate some of his asinine honking (yep, still honking) and merrily drove along, all the while saying in my head “not a chance bro!”

As we came to a traffic light, he finally got his chance. He pulled up on my left and rolled down his window and I wondered, for a moment, if he had a gun (it happens). He didn’t, but he had a lot to say and even got off his car. But, just then a cop showed up and asked me if anything was the matter. I shook my head and by the time I looked left, our brave-heart had fled!! So much for his bravado!

It made me laugh and I giggled like a schoolgirl all the way home listening to Van Morrison on high volume. My road rage vanished and I felt vindicated!! Silly I know and I also know it could’ve turned ugly and I should’ve just let him go, but there is something so angering about people who drive like that, that I just could not bring myself to pull away from my lane to let him pass!!

Anyway, it put me in a good mood while driving for once and that’s something, because driving in Delhi ain’t for the faint-hearted!

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Why do perfectly sane women stay in abusive relationships?

One of my closest friends has been in an abusive marriage for fifteen years. Fifteen years. That’s something. And it’s depressing.

It’s pained me no end to have been at the other end of the phone line all these years and listen to her life, as she has cried her way into middle age. Well, almost middle age.

Have I tried to counsel her, asked her to get out, asked her to seek help. Yes to all of that. It’s been in vain though. She’s seemed so this-is-my-destiny in her approach to her life that it’s been tough to help her. At one point I transferred some money into her account so she could fly back to India (she lives in another country) if it got worse than it was (though that was hard to imagine)

She never used that money, of course, because she never left. And I never understood it. I mean on a theoretical level, I did understand – kids, family, reputation, honor (whatever that is) and stuff like that. Apart from the first point, I didn’t quite see the relevance of the others. But the thing is that the abuse started way before she had the kids, which is when I pushed her hardest to leave. I could not understand it. She was young, very attractive, very independent, educated, extremely smart and the rest of it. Yet, when this happened she kept waiting for it to get better. Which, of course, it didn’t. She now insists it did though, because now he only hits out when he’s really angry and can actually be loving when he’s not getting on her case (puhleeezz). Also, somewhere in her heart she has convinced herself, and this is because he’s been putting her down for the last fifteen years, that she is the one who provokes him.

I cannot describe what it feels like to hear her say that. Provoked? What the ^%&$## does he mean by that? What is he? King of the world? And what defines provoked by the way? That she answers back when he tells her to do something, she says. It makes me mad, mad mad mad and I want to kick her ass for such spineless servitude. But then I check myself, that’s the last thing she needs, because she confides only in me.

Not that I don’t tell her how I feel. I do and sometimes in not so sweet terms. But it does not work and she stops calling.This man has worked her beautifully. When he thinks he’s pushed her too far, he does something nice. Nice meaning, not yelling at her for say about two hours and maybe taking her out to dinner. Guess what, she’s confused and wondering if she really is the one who starts the fights. I’ve tried everything, but she chooses not to leave.

Now it’s becomes like a cycle. She calls every few months and tells me about her life. We talk, or rather I let her talk. She calls everyday for a few days and seems convinced that life has a lot more to offer, that she still can do a lot with her life and move on. Then she brings in the kids and how they would be affected. She then, quite suddenly, stops calling. A few months later she starts again and it’s the same story.

She called today. Nothing’s changed. The kid are now 8 and 11. I asked her why she still wants to stay in this marriage. She said because she’s afraid of loneliness and of the fact that her kids might hate her for breaking up the home. Relevant points I guess, except I could not see why she would prefer abuse over loneliness. Would you not rather be free, I asked her? Imagine, I told her, your house the way you want it (this guy is a control freak beyond belief), that you don’t get told off because you forgot to put one book back in its place (the place he wants that is), that you don’t have to cook, clean, feed, for him and his mum (who lives with them and does not lift a finger) and who only tells her how mediocre she is and hopes that the kids don’t take after her. Imagine a life of dignity.

She could not. It was like I was describing a life on Mars or something. She was quiet for a while and then said “that would be nice, really nice”. But, the big but was the kids.

I know that kids are the worst affected when it comes to a divorce. But is it better for them to stay in a home where there is violence? No, its not. I’ve told her that many many times but she’s convinced that he’s a good dad and that she would be depriving them of his love is she separated. Sigh. I give up.

I cannot help her anymore than listening to her when she calls. She needs to help herself and till she’s not ready, there’s really little I can do. Sometimes when I call and the man is around, she talks in this eerily-cheery tone that gives me the chills and I end the conversation quickly. Also, he does not like her to have friends outside of “their” friends, so I don’t like to cause trouble (even though I knew her waaaaaay before the unfortunate day she met him)

I feel sad tonight as I think of her in her bed (she must be asleep now). Here’s a girl who cooked and painted, danced and sang, laughed and yapped and lit up a party. Now she’s a maid in her own home who works like a dog and then gets abused for one little “mistake”. How did you let this happen? How?

The abiding memory I have of you is that one night when we all drank a bit more than we could handle and you stood up, picked up a piece of fax paper roll as a make-believe mic and sang ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ at the top of your lungs. Well, tonight, I cry for you.

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Vitamin B12 Defeciency. A Scary One This.

I seem to be surrounded by women suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Not kidding – mom, sister, friends, acquaintances, obscure aunts – you name them. It has unsettled me enough to want to get a blood test done of my own (I am certain I will be deficient, just know it!) So will a lot of you, by the way. It’s more common than we think.

The ailment was unknown to me till just about a year ago. I mean I sort of knew about B12 in a vaguesh, distant sort of way, but not more than that.

Then, all of a sudden almost every woman around me seemed to have only one problem – a B12 deficiency. This thing was like an epidemic, like it was airborne or something. I kid you not. Even friends I had not met in ages (and frankly even forgotten the existence of before they sent me chirpy messages on Facebook and I felt pressured to accept) seemed to have only one complaint (ok not only one, there’s always the maid crisis that binds us all, here in India – when I say us I mean people like us – well off, affluent enough to afford help) but apart from that one chronic problem, there was B12. Someone I know now has a neurological disorder because her B12 deficiency went undetected for too long. Another close friend had to recently take B12 injections because she was so low in it that she could not get out of bed without a yelp.Yet another friend was so depressed I had to talk her off the ledge and turned out that she too had a deficiency. She’s MUCH better now after the suppliments.

As about sis, she’s been plagued with migraines, aches, general weakness and of course depression for, well I can’t even remember for how long. Long enough to be worried I guess. I’ve been telling her to get her B12 checked. I freely impart this newly acquired knowledge to anyone who complains of anything and cares to listen (seriously – B12 has also been linked to heart trouble, cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke – the works)  But sis being sis and working like a zombie from morning to almost morning was not in a mood to be lectured, which by the way I didn’t do, but that’s what my unsolicited advice felt like to her. Also, she usually calls me from the car on her way back home from work when she’s stuck in traffic and her daughter is waiting at home. She’s not at her best, understandably, at this time, so anything anyone says that even remotely resembles a sermon, she rejects outright, usually with sentences like “you don’t know how tired I am. I don’t have the time to go to the doc”.

Anyway, long story short, after a couple of fainting episodes, rapid pulse, rushing to the Emergency at the hospital etc, she sort of got the point about the usefulness of doctors in life. She got diagnosed with high blood pressure and  was being treated for that but her pains just would not go. I gently brought up the point of B12 again, to little avail. Most physicians seem to miss this rather obvious possible cause for body aches and other ailments. So her B12 kept dipping and headaches kept getting worse (there’s also migraine in the family, so that helps!!) and her blood pressure kept rising due to the headaches. The doc kept upping her medicine which gave her palpitations. Agh. I, of course, never let go of my rant, but who listens to siblings who are not doctors? 

So now it’s finally come up. She went for the test (don’t  ask) and guess what? Her B12 is so low that the doctor fell of his chair and wondered how she’s up and about. When she called me I wanted to say soooooo much, but of course I didn’t (i knew that was not the time).

Now my mum has been diagnosed with the same thing and has to take nasal sprays to get the stuff into her blood stream quickly. She has a vitamin d3 deficiency too,which is the other point I want to make. This too is low in a lot of people and somehow never gets discovered. My older daughter has it too and is on supplements.

So if you have a chronic, inexplicable condition and can’t quite understand why you are feeling this way, you need a vitamin B12 and D3 test. If you suggest this to a doc he/she’ll give you the are-you-the-doc-or-I look, but never mind that. Do the test anyway if you feel you should. I am going to do it this week.

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