Monday, November 17, 2014

The Purr-fect Angel

In loving memory of a departed soul who taught us about the fragility of life and death and truly living every breath.
"Bubba"- that's what my brother called him. But I couldn't settle on name I liked - one day he was Mr. Hobbes (from Bill Watterson's comic strip) another day he was Orundai Kutti (rolly-polly baby in Tamil). Everyday was an adventurous journey for me to conjure a new sobriquet for him and for him to discover a new place to hide. Now as I go looking for him behind the sofa, I realize that he has found a hiding place I can never find out.

During his first car ride back home clinging onto my jacket as I tried to keep him from climbing onto my neck and tickling me, so many of my initial apprehensions of fostering a kitten were melting away - I just could not stop smiling. As my friend helped me pick out his first cans of foods and litter, folks at Petsmart kept adoring this cute fur ball tucked away and camouflaged in my gray jacket and my confidence grew. Being a first-time foster family can be daunting especially when you've never had pets growing up - but you always have google to the rescue. I practically googled everything from what food he should eat and what type of litter he should have to how to force feed him using a syringe and how to get rid of fleas.

The first few days were frustrating when I couldn't figure out why he was not eating. I rushed at 8 in the morning the nearest pet store to pick up a feeding bottle and KMR because he refused to eat the shrimp pate. Which kitten doesn't like fish! As I frantically emailed the folks at SPCA, I realized that I had a fussy eater in my hands. Once he settled on his chicken and liver diet, turned out that the bacteria  in his gut really didn't take to it and he started suffering from diarrhea. Once again after a frenzied trip to the SPCA, we had him on a diarrhea medication (albon and benebac) and probiotic dry food along with his wet food. He appeared to gain weight and there was a regal air about his tiger-like gait as he explored new territories and conquered new corners.

But soon he had new problems- he was scratching all over. Fleas! I had never seen fleas before and I was terrified - even though fleas do not really harm humans and may only cause some minor itching, they can be a major cause of disease in kittens and result in anemia. Further I was horrified by the idea of tiny insects crawling all over my skin - (remember the scene from The Mummy) it made my skin crawl. So I dragged my protesting friend back to Walmart in the middle of the night to get flea shampoos sprays, and wet wipes. I gave my kitten a warm bath with his shampoo and spray which he seemed to enjoy at first and then violently disliked as he leapt out of the basin and landed on all fours before nearly missing the toilet bowl. That was his first encounter with conquering gravity to escape the dreadful water. Within moments I realized that I had turned a feisty Mr. Hobbes into a whimpering little skinned chicken - his fur sticking to his skin and his body shivering to his bone. I kept apologizing to him while he snarled at me and finally settled into a purr as I wrapped him in my old sweater and wiped his fur sitting by the room heater.

He was a little tiger at heart and knew exactly what he wanted - whether it was his preference in food, or his favorite corner, or his favorite place to take a dump outside the litter box (which he did far too many times much to my exasperation). He was a kitten unafraid to make new friends - creatures ten times his size were reduced to babbling baby-talkers. I've never seen my brother express love and affection so effusively for a creature before. I am amazed at how he took to caring for his "Bubba" in my absence: including cleaning up after him, feeding him and playing with him. Of course, my brother was a strict parent and did not allow him to wander near shoes and electrical outlets.

But life and nature set you up for some really hard lessons in the fragility of life. Bubba had stopped eating for a day and his breathing had become labored. I couldn't figure out whether it was a respiratory ailment or because of his loss of appetite and lack of energy. I tried force feeding him as he winced and spat out even the mildest KMR mix. As I let him climb into my lap and frantically googled - I felt an impending sense of loss and helplessness as the symptoms seemed to indicate very serious implications. As I fought back my tears determined to allay my fears till I went to the SPCA, there was a small part of me that still feared for his life.

The next morning at the SPCA, I was shocked when I was told that he was to be euthanized. It was completely unacceptable to me that a kitten who was pouncing around like a little tiger was not being given a fighting chance to live. I dashed off to the nearest vet who suggested I take him to the animal ER because he needed an oxygenated cage. As I was leaving the vet's I heard the nurse reassure me that I was a good foster mother and that was all I needed to not give up on him. As I waited impatiently trying to frantically call my friend and my brother, I tried to convince myself that there was nothing wrong with him. Meanwhile the ER nurses were trying to contact another foster kitten's foster family to let them know that their kitten was not doing well and may need to be put down.

After a round of blood tests, the doctor said he was highly anemic but his glucose levels were fine, which meant he had a blood borne pathogen or feline leukemia. She said either blood transfusion or antibiotics was the way to go. She did recommend blood transfusion as a better option, but was not sure about the likelihood of his survival. As my mind raced through the various courses of action I could take, I was rankled by the thought of him spending his last few hours in a cold hospital alone and me receiving the dreadful phone call about his death without even having the chance to hold him and letting him know that he was loved. Was I writing his death warrant by not agreeing to a blood transfusion? As I spoke to the nurse about the antibiotic course I felt somewhat reassured by the fact that I could bring him back into the hospital for a blood transfusion if necessary.

When the nurse brought him out, he was snarling and scratching her viciously fighting her off. I held him against my coat and wrapped him up as he squirmed and tried to tell me to let him go. I rushed to my car to protect him from the crisp winds of the Fall. As I lay him on the car seat, I could feel the cold hands of death were engulfing his body. I picked him up and dashed back into the ER and I kept imploring him to stay with me. He caught a last wind of his last breath as if to respond to my pleas but was declared dead on arrival. The doctors and nurses were shocked at how quickly he faded. I was distraught and couldn't comprehend how I could explain this to my rational brain. In the neat little box of rationality and invincibility that we create for our selves there is no room for hopelessness and we must have answers for everything - or at least a semblance of an answer. Even though every leaf that fell around me told me the same story every year - I failed to recognize that constant cycle of life and death was the way of nature and it would manifest itself in my life too.

Death as an outcome is easier to comprehend when you feel satisfied that a creature has lived his full lifespan and fulfilled his purpose on earth. Again purpose is very poorly defined and we as humans tend to attribute purpose to everything because we can't think of it any other way. So it was even harder to accept death as an outcome for someone so young and fragile. As I keep replaying in my head the last few days he spent with us, I am tempted to want to turn back time and change something about it. I don't know if this helplessness is what turns people towards religion or spiritualism. But for me not having an answer was very unsatisfactory. Even today as I try to grapple with the fact that it could have been feline leukemia (FeLV) or  feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or a congenital disease or caused by flea anemia, I cannot really be sure what was the right recourse to have taken. I have reconciled myself to thinking that his poor immune system really let him down on his battle to fight whatever disease ailed him. He was due for his first set of vaccines 2 days after he passed away.

In any case, I do believe that in whatever little flicker of time he spent on this planet we were able to provide him with a glimpse of a loving family that cared for his well-being. In turn, he took to us like we belonged to his species and showed us that we were capable of affection and empathy for a fellow creature and are willing to let ourselves be vulnerable to the vagaries of life. Hopefully in his current state or form he is at peace and has no suffering to endure.

Hopefully someone who is reading this can learn from my experience and understand that dealing with death is something you have to be prepared for at any point of time while fostering orphaned pets. There is no easy way to deal with it but to face it and let it sink in. There is also no alternative reality where you can go back and change something. Further, trusting your instinct and doing your best at any given time is the only way to reassure yourself. This website was a really good resource and should be used by folks who are thinking of fostering. I would also highly recommend getting your foster pet screened by an external vet for FIV and FELV and other blood borne pathogens.

RIP Bubba.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Carpe diem

After a long time comes along a movie that truly makes you believe that movies in some sense capture the zeitgeist of a generation. “Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara” defines that for the twenty somethings of an India that is gradually emerging from being the India of the 9-5 job-family-kids “settled” conservative middle class to being the free-spirited global India that takes a risk and explores its boundaries. As it explores these new horizons, there is much trepidation in the uncertainty of the future and the fear of losing the comfortable cushion of predictability.

Watching the trailer made me think that ZNMD would be a Bollywood “Hangover” with DCH like characters thrown in the mix to make it a sequel. Surprisingly it did not have any risqué jokes or run-of-the-mill bachelor party themed cringe-worthy content. As a sequel, it works even though DCH was made 10 years back. In a sense, some of the characters were cast from the same DCH mold: the brooding artist with layers that run deeper than his external persona, the hen-pecked “nicest-guy-in-the-world” character who gets tormented by the women in his life and the practical emotionally unattached guy who measures everything in terms of returns. Despite these commonalities, the personalities of these characters appeared to be well hashed out: complete with histories and baggage from the past. Also the theme revolving around these three characters has grown from being a lighthearted romantic one, to a journey of the characters facing their biggest fears, both, through potentially fatal challenges that they undertake and in breaking free from their comfortably numb lives to discover a truth about themselves. This is not to say that the movie lacked levity, in fact it was filled with “just for laughs” type gags, college humor-taking a jibe at the English challenged professor, situational humor and a Holi-like tomatino festival. The songs were great and blended easily into the story except the "Senorita" song which probably got added in as a Hrithik dance number.

Farhan did a surprisingly great job of being the inscrutable artist who used humor and juvenile pranks as a façade for a more profound inner self. As an effervescent boy trapped in a man who was unafraid to push his limits with everything and everyone, Farhan seemed to switch gears almost effortlessly. Abhay as the fun loving and incredibly sweet pacifist who could not bear to disappoint his family or his girlfriend, pulled it off with great ease. Hrithik, as the money minded practical guy who drove out every iota of emotion from his life because of his past experience, was plausible to some extent, but the portrayal of his cathartic experience post deep sea diving came off as contrived. Also his romance with Katrina seemed very superficial even though the premise that she opened his eyes to a world outside money and job security, was genuinely refreshing. The setting in Spain was an unusual choice, probably a conscious attempt to be off-beat than the hackeneyed US-London-Switzerland-Australia locales. Perhaps post ZMND, Spain will be the new Switzerland or perhaps I should say post-DCH Goa.

Most people who didn't get DCH will not get ZNMD either because they are expecting a strong core story. Both DCH and ZNMD were never about the stories, they were about the attitudes of characters in specific phases of their lives and how they interact with each other. They are about moments that trigger change. The pace of story-telling is closer to the pace at which real life moves and the personalities a closer to what you might encounter in your own life. Rather than make a movie situation-centric with players foisted into it, these movies bring out the of this generation : whether it is about finding love or about seizing the day and living it completely with no fear.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


She stretched her vision across the city spreading beneath her. From that altitude she could still see people bustling around on the sidewalks, cars tailing each other on the highway like an army of ants: so busy and consumed in the microcosm of their own lives. She watched them as a curious bystander would watch an ant hill or a beehive: removed from it's seemingly chaotic yet infinitely intricate ecosystem. But did she choose to distance herself from it or did she reconcile herself to life of solitude?

There was no unambiguous way to answer that question. On the one hand she had risen through the echelons of the advertising world from a bright eyed student of design to the most coveted creative director in business. There was never a dull moment at work or a day when she woke up without feeling the energy to take on the next big client. Of course, there were days when things went horribly wrong, ideas misfired and people with mighty egos clashed like gladiators in the Colosseum. And yet through such trying situations her detached mind would conjure up some of the most fantastic ideas that would diffuse the situation and accelerate her ascent to a position her peers could only dream of. She couldn't imagine being more satisfied creatively, professionally and financially.

Even so, it was lonely up there. Most of her peers now worked as her subordinates and most of the men she had met were laid back, unambitious and immature. She was fairly old school in wanting a man to make the first move and secretly hoped that it would bring out her coy and vulnerable feminine side. Yet her public persona was that of an alpha female often repelling any self respecting alpha male from approaching her. The one time she felt that a relationship was working for her, she realized years later that she had only deluded herself in all her youthful optimism that she could entirely trust the one she loved even though they were professional competitors. Was it the bitterness and mistrust that made her detached? She could feel the pulse of a market and spin an idea that would touch the raw emotions and desires of an entire target population and yet she found it painfully difficult to feel those very emotions and desires. Was it her trade that made her an uninvolved spectator of human behavior that it almost was beneath her to exhibit those very emotions and behaviors that made her a livelihood?

She watched a happily married couple in the ocean of people below: the husband carrying his son on his shoulders and the wife scooping their second child out of a stroller. That could have been any of her numerable peers or classmates. Was she afraid of normalcy, domestication and mundaneness? Why was life so complicated for her that she did not have that simple joy of being a mother or a wife? She chided herself as the thought ran through her head. Never covet another's joy she almost said aloud. She pursed her lips as she did not want the excruciating hollowness to pour out of her being and yet she couldn't control it from brimming her eyes and blurring out her happiness.

As she watched the young family make its way through the fluid of unrecognizable faces she could feel a drop streaming down her cheek. But before it could fall into oblivion she spread out her hands and dove after it. As her feet left the comfort of being at the solitary apex she felt powerless, unable to control the speed at which she was hurtling down towards the ground. As she felt the wind rushing through her face and the building floors flying past her, the blood rushed faster to her head. Even so, there was an inexplicable calm on her face for she knew it was a happy place to be, to be able to let go of everything and still be in control. Within seconds she knew it would be over.

Below, people stopped in their tracks in horror. They were pointing and screaming in almost the same hapless way that her body seemed to fall. She quickly tugged at the parachute which broke her fall and eased her descent onto terra firma. Illegal BASE jump off the Petronas, check. Got arrested for it, check! Life wasn't that complicated after all.

Is it all about Money Honey?

When I came to the US as a student I found that my roommates and friends were a lot more generous in their spending than the folks I hung out with in the UK who were working professionals in IT companies. It was odd to find that these professionals who earned more than the students did, tended to be a lot more stingy and tight-fisted and in turn appeared to extremely dissatisfied, harried and unhappy. I would wonder if it was money that made them the way they were.

It also reminded me of the maid who used to work in our house a long time back. When she had no money to get through the month she would lavishly spend on her son's jeans (she once bought a pair of jeans worth her monthly salary) and take her daughters out to the fair without any sight towards the future in terms of savings. She seemed to be the happiest person in the world despite her drunk husband and her abusive mother-in-law. As the wheels of fortune turned, after the death of her husband she acquired a huge ancestral farmland worth over a crore and she transformed from a poor yet happy maid into a rich, unhappy, vexed and now bored crorepati. Money does have that effect on people who did not have much of it: they know the power it brings and are unable to deal with it.

For some people it is aspirational: they dream about a lifestyle that comes with it and turn bitter when their dreams don't come true. In a world that is now reeling under the repercussions of bad investments, instant gratifications and a complete disregard towards saving, it might seem bad advice to be investing in one's happiness. There was a time I used to tell my mom to advice our maid on saving, but now I realise that she was happier blowing it up on a 1000 rupees jeans for her son! That goes for my student friends too. They might have crossed their credit limits long back but I saw contentment on their faces on that rafting trip and when they bought yet another $20 fish for their fish tank! They were not going to buy a condo saving that $200 rafting trip. I am not advocating being a spendthrift and going bankrupt is great.

I believe that investing in happiness once in a while reaps more rewards than seeing your bank balance rise. A good friend of mine recently accused me of putting myself on a higher pedestal than others because money was not a #1 priority for me. I am pretty sure I wasn't being 'elitist' about it or for that matter being condescending towards others to whom it is important. I realize that some people know what money can buy and see it as an instrument to fulfilling their own dreams and that of their families, while others know its value because of the dearth of it in their lives and therefore acquiring it becomes a huge priority in their lives.

Having said that, I have grown up in an environment learning to spend within my means and being happy with it. I don't have a car in the US and I am not unhappy about it. It is a capitalist conspiracy to keep enticing people to seek 'happiness' in possessing things that are not really necessary. They tell us that we are the next big dud on the block if we do not own that plasma screen TV or that iPod nano or iPhone or Macbook air and they charge a bomb for it because it was probably manufactured out of a single block of moonstone! If our happiness is contigent on these capitalistic aspirations then unhappiness is the sum total of our experience because everyday there is going to be a new iGizmo to covet our attention and entwine us into a vicious cycle of endless desire.

And now that I am done extolling the virtues of saving, wish me well on my skydiving adventure.

Published by PenMyBlog for iPhone 4

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


He sat alone at his usual spot on the beach as he watched the sun kissed horizon blush into hues of crimson and pink. He lifted a handful of sand and watched it slip through his fingers, fast at first and then reducing to a trickle. 'Moments', he thought, 'slipped out of my fingers just when she filled my arms and now life without her has reduced to this tedious trickle.'

He hadn't had the time to say goodbye and he could never really have brought himself to say it. Tears, emotions and sentiments made him unstable, vulnerable and probably a little more human than he would let himself be. He had not even told her how much he loved her. She, on the other hand, had always been effervescent and articulate and words were not her only form of expression. They came in myriad forms, from gifting him a gold tie pin to say thank you to baking brownies to apologize for burning his favourite shirt. He had almost flown into a rage and yet the moment he saw her brown eyes and the brownies, his knitted brows melted into a smile, that rippled across his lips saying the unspoken words, ‘It’s alright sweetheart’. He needed no words to communicate when expressions sufficed.

And yet today he wished he could have those grains of moments back when he could tell her a million times how much he cherished her. The thought that she was so far away made even the gentle evening breeze seem cold and heartless. There were so many memories in the breeze, the sand and the sea and even a million waves couldn’t wipe out those memories. He remembered how they drove his speedboat over the raucous waters every summer and how he chased her down the lashing waves till they were soaking wet and he scooped her into his arms and carried her back home. They needed nothing else and no one else in their happy little microcosm.

But he knew this day was coming and a part of him wished it away despite its inevitability. He resented every man she even spoke to and withdrew into a shell not speaking to her for days when she questioned his behaviour. He thought she would understand, like she always did. She couldn’t take his autocratic and distrusting attitude. She felt stifled in the unfathomable labyrinth of his silence and left him a letter explaining everything.

When he read the letter, it first made him laugh deliriously, he was confident that she would come back for she loved him too dearly. A part of his brain also reminded him that he had taught her to be the master of her own decisions and that she was by no means trifling with him. For the second time in his life he sobbed uncontrollably and helplessly. He frantically called the police and they said they could do nothing in the matter.

As years of unshed tears dried up in his eyes, he got up and dusted off his pants he felt a familiar arm touch his shoulder. He knew it was her before he even heard her voice say, “The most beautiful sunset isn’t it?” He turned around and embraced her and planted a million kisses on her face when he spotted a young man standing a few feet away behind her. She pulled both of them together so they could meet. “Dad, Josh and I are married. Would you like to come live with us?” Tears rolled down his eyes and he said, “Of course my dear. I love your brownies.”

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Capitalistic Conspiracy

In what seems like a mainstream realization of the greed that capitalism breeds, Michael Moore packs a punch with 'Capitalism a love story'. It is a more contemporary version of what 'Zeitgeist' and 'The Money Masters' attempted to unveil long before the big avalanche on the stock market in 2008. Were they just conspiracy theories or was capitalism the real conspiracy?

The movie starts off with an attempt to define the capitalism that US once romanced and got married to during Reagan's era. The honeymoon was long over but even as America tries to come to terms with the real avaracious and shortsighted face of the ideology it married to spite Russia, it is in serious denial that anything can go wrong with it. As it grapples with it's own daily battles to survive this bad marriage, everyone from Paul Krugman to Michael Moore is screaming for a divorce. They are calling for government regulation and not 'free enterprise'. The moment such a thing is even suggested, one gets labeled as a commie because a large part of America still thinks economic ideology is binary: capitalist or communist. There is no happy medium and even though Obama burst onto the scene with promises to rescue people's money, they do not want socialism because they view it as a betrayal to the very foundation on which their nation grew to such great heights and was revered by the world. But Michael Moore questions this sense of betrayal stating that the founding fathers of America never laid down capitalism as the pedestal of this country.

The movie has the uncut version of everything that got onto Michael Moore's camera especially if it was sensational like a guard at GM denying the filmmaker access into the building. But it is not unedited random shooting: it spoke a language that people in the theater cheered and identified with as their own. It told a story of broken homes and broken cities that vaguely resembled the crumbling erstwhile USSR. It told a story of broken dreams, despair, angst and outrage that raged across the nation like wildfire within a span of a year. But Moore doesn't simply stop at the disease and its symptoms, he also tells the story of the healing process: worker protests and co-operative societies forming companies : something that India has long adopted as a socialist nation, something that for once, I believe the architects of our nation did not get wrong!

Moore finally ends with his trademark symbolic shenanigans: parading outside Wallstreet trying to make a citizen's arrest of the bank CEOs and cordoning off the NYSE building with crime scene tapes. What intrigued me the most was not so much the content or theme, but the fact that artists have some of the most powerful instruments and vocabularies to reach out and make their thoughts heard and yet it is very few artists who take that gift and become the voice of the society.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Choice is Yours

Volition, like most other gifts of democracy, comes with a price and a burden of responsibility. Whether we choose for ourselves consciously, making an educated decision, or the choice is forced upon us by circumstances, it is each one's prerogative to defend one's choice but not impose it on others. In a social environment that debates every single choice and silos them into stereotypes, it almost becomes imperative to be able to justify one's stand on anything from personal habits to sociopolitical issues. Unfortunately, these debates seldom end in a 'we-don't-see-eye-to-eye-on-that-but-we-won't-sock-each-other's-eyes-out' ceasefire: they are raked up every now and then, resulting in one too many blackened eyes, of course, only verbally.

I often get asked questions about my vegetarianism and distaste for alcoholic beverages. Although my answers vary according to the level of intelligence and state of consciousness of the inquirer, I found that most meat eaters and beer drinkers insist that I am missing out on something good in my life.

To be completely honest, I did sip a few alcoholic drinks just to find out what it is that makes people want to drink it all the time and I still do find it a mystery. For those who have never tasted it, in my humble opinion, it is mostly repulsive in flavour and odour. What I find more outrageous and condescending, though, is the persistence of these folks in their attempts to initiate me in their 'gang'. Well, they aren't so much concerned about being 'inclusive and considerate' when they talk amongst themselves in a tongue foreign to others, but oh no, they have to get include everyone in getting stoned out of their senses by morning whether they are 'Delhiites', 'Gultis', 'Mumbaikars' or 'Bongs'! If only our interstate wars could be solved by tequila shots - cheers to national integration Hic hic Hurray!

When it comes to finding vegetarian food, I thought UK was pretty bad, but I had another thing coming when I came to the US: it stinks! No wonder you see people around carrying three truck tires around their bellies, because anything and everything must have cheese in it. Much to the frustration of my friends who eat anything that flies, hops, runs and poops, I continue to send them on a wild goose chase for a restaurant that serves vegetarian food, which only results in yet another veg versus non-veg debate.

On a more general note, almost everyday I see a bunch of 'pro-life' supporters picketing around the Women's med center which is presumably the place abortions are done. I have even see a priest come and sermonize people about the sanctity of human life. While I personally hold a very moderate view on the issue, I do believe that assuming the women in question know the status of their fetuses and are allowed to choose to keep the baby or abort, these protestors of abortion should respect their choices. Although that appears to be pro-choice, I believe, the women should be made fully aware about how much their fetuses have developed and they might essentially be killing another human. Having said that, most 'pro-life' campaigns are almost akin to the moral policing that is prevalent in India, except that, so far, it has not been blatant or physical.

People are adept at using their freedom of speech and undertaking unsolicited advising like they are being paid for it. I believe that such self appointed advisors find every opportunity to reaffirm conviction in their own choices by advocating them to others and recruiting yet another member into their 'tribe'. There's almost a social need to be just like everybody and yet the individuals who are considered exemplars are ones who walked against the social tide even to the point of ostracization for standing by their beliefs. So yes, I am advising people to lay off the gratuitous advice: please choose to respect others choice.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Gross Anatomy

Warning: People who are squeamish about body parts should avoid reading this. Even if you are not, do not read this while eating. Don't blame me if you barf your lunch on your favorite laptop!

Pep talk to self pre-course: "This isn't going to be too bad. After all you have done dissections in the past on rats and despite the initial disgust you felt for the whole process, it turned out pretty interesting, didn't it? You have also been to the 'Bodies' exhibition. I am sure it's not a big deal."

In the classroom: "I am the only girl in this class! I am sure none of these guys are vegetarians! I am doomed! I don't even have scrubs! Arrrrggghhh! Let me out of here..."

In the Lab: Dr. P: " ....most students do not have a problem with this lab. But occasionally there are cases..."
Cases of what? Students swooning, vomitting, having nightmares of cadavers running after them?
Dr. P: "Just make sure when you are not feeling ok, you raise your hand and I will have someone walk you out. Some students just walk out of the room without saying anything and it's only when I hear the crash in the hallway that I realize that they must have had a problem with what they saw."
'Gulp! I am next in line for that.' Dr. P noticed the horror writ all over my face and thought, 'Oh yes you are.'

Dr. P started making an incision from the nape of the neck and I could feel the hair on my neck stand. As he got down to the superficial fascia and layer of fat, I could feel my morning cuppa tea trying to make its way out the wrong way. The nauseating smell of fat subdued the odoriferous formaldehyde and began to overwhelm my olfactory nerve till my head starts to spin and I decided that I've had enough. Steve accompanied me out to the lounge outside.

Pep-talk to self post incision incident: "That lady was dead years ago. She cannot feel pain. Yes it takes just a scalpel to skin a person! She voluntereed to give her body for science so her soul won't wince at what we are doing to her. Go back in there, girl, and validate her sacrifice."

So back I was all pumped up to wrestle with the fat and the muscle and the blood and everything human that could possibly ruin my apetite for the rest of the day. 10 minutes into the dissection and I was right back in the lounge trying to get some air into my lungs.

Pep-talk to self post failed pep talk: "You are not a mouse! It is a human body just like your own. This is a one time opportunity to see how it all fits in together and works. C'mon clench your fist and say you can do it."

For the rest of the class I hovered around the table scalpel in hand just observing the dissections of the back muscles and even that made me rush back home after class and shower till my body became red. My olfactory senses became fully functional only after smelling and drinking coffee. Thankfully my apetite returned too.

Since then it's been less bumpy on the road to understanding human anatomy. I think I am getting the hang of telling the blood vessels and nerves apart and needless to say, it is immensely interesting. I believed it's the initial inhibition both physiological as well as psychological, one needs to overcome. If anything, being a vegetarian in an anatomy class makes it easier for me to handle what I am doing. The food I eat rarely looks like a body part. But every once in a while, there are cases : teammates who will insist on cutting open the gall bladder and insisting it looks like spinach, Dr. P cutting open the caecum with gloves covered in semi-formed faeces, dissection around the anus, turning the cadavers over and the arms almost detaching from the body, fat splaying on people's faces, dissection of the testis with fluid oozing out of never ceases to get grosser and I spend a lot of time in the lounge!