Saturday, 18 April 2015

On needles

I had a panic attack today. 

I had a dentist's appointment to remove my wisdom teeth. It was all fine in my head, you know, the blood and gore aspect of it. I was not much bothered that my crazy phobia of needles would make its presence felt. But it did. 

I have always been scared of needles. I rarely go for a blood test without my mother, for support. Until not very long ago, there have been episodes of me running through the house with my dad chasing me with a tetanus shot. There was also the time I went all hysterical in a path lab and two nurses had to come and restrain me. These are all incidents in my 20s. 

But lately, after a bout of dengue which involved at least 12 blood tests in 5 days, I thought my fear was abating. Although, whenever they took my blood during the dengue phase, I was in bed and would hide under the covers and leave my arm out for them to take the blood. That was not difficult. 

Then, there was that time when I had to do a full medical for a job. Since my employer had these labs on the company panel where we were supposed to get the tests done, I had to go on my own, behave myself, and not do much but squirm as they took 4 vials of blood out of me. It was a proud day. 

Today was stupid. I went inside the clinic, and without ceremony was plonked on the chair. 

It is scary being in surgeries or interventions of any kind. You are the centre of everyone's attention. It is not easy being in the spotlight. All the idiotic inferiority complexes of you not being worth any attention creep in. Just leave me alone, you think. I am Ok in the sidelines. Don't look at me. There are other people to focus on. But no, it has to be you. You are asking for this. You are paying for it. 

I opened my mouth and stared into the light above my head. It said 'Gnatus'. That's Latin for jaw, I thought. Trying to distract by remembering old biology textbooks describing evolution. Agnatha, the jawless fish. 

The dentist checked my teeth with that mirror-thing they have. He said nothing. No remarks about the time it would take, no smiles, no harmless banter. The next thing I know, a big needle crosses my vision and he starts to put it into my mouth without any "This is going to hurt just a bit" stock statement. I shut my mouth and said no. Me, the spineless coward, I thought. 

I asked him to wait. I told him I was scared of needles and would need a moment to catch my breath. At the second attempt, after 10 seconds, I again froze. I was expecting some reassurance here. "You can do it Swapna. It'll be like an ant bite" or even, "It's just a matter of 10 minutes, you'll be fine". Nothing. Even after I said it was just the needle I was scared of, not the pain. He said point blank that he needed full cooperation of the patient and did not expect that in the present case, and the surgery could not be done. That made me feel smaller than I already was feeling. It is not easy having a phobia. You curse yourself for having it. And sometimes all you need is a little encouragement. None was coming. And then it started, the panic attack. All the sweating, the dizziness, the embarrassment of it all. 

Almost running, from the clinic I came straight home, with my impacted wisdom teeth intact, hugged my mom, and slept. 

I am all for being macho and tough and braving through pain. But empathy, and even sympathy, are underrated virtues. It does not harm to smile a bit to encourage someone, or say you are brave to someone who is shit scared. How else would anyone have done anything at all?

Monday, 19 May 2014

When someone writes what I want to write :P

Excerpt from "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn.
I bloody typed the whole thing out, I liked it so much. Story of our lives. (This excerpt, definitely not the book!)
"For several years I had been bored. Not a whining, restless child's boredom (although I was not above that) but a dense, blanketing malaise. It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative (although the word derivative as a criticism itself is derivative). We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can't recall a single amazing thing I've seen firsthand that I didn't immediately reference to a movie or a TV show. A fucking commerical. You know the awful singsong of the blase: Seeen it. I've literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can't anymore. I don't know that we are actually human at this point, those of us who are most of us, who grew up with TV and movies, and now the Internet. If we are betrayed, we know the words to say; if a loved one dies, we know the words to say. If we want to play the stud or the smart-ass or the fool, we know the words to say. We are all working from the same dog-eared script.
It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless automat of characters.
And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don't have genuine souls.
It had gotten to a point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I'm not a real person and neither is anyone else.
I would have done anything to feel real again."

Saturday, 24 August 2013

On forgetting

"You get to an age where the stories don't matter anymore, and the stories once told so passionately become a tide that never quite reaches the point of being said. And there is no such thing as fate, but there are no accidents either." -Simon van Booy

They don't matter anymore. The teacher who left you out of the annual day dance at the last minute, the people who hurt a 12-year old you, the friends who betrayed you to hang out with each other on friendship day, the boy who broke your 16-year old heart and the constant jibes over the years about your chubbiness. The stories you told endlessly to each new best friend you made. Now, except for the heart break one, none are repeated. And the heart-break story is repeated only for effect. Only to let others know your emotional range does not exclude unrequited love. The big sympathy (or psycho) card.

Time has moved on.

You are used to being on your own and immersing yourself in television mythology. And enjoying it more than actual human interaction. It's easier feeling someone else's pain, easy to get jealous of someone's steamy romance and easy to rack your brains figuring out the plot twist. You know your guesses won't affect the outcome. They are someone else's business. Your feeling the pain of a crying matriarch and envy of the budding office romance of a TV hunk, can be forgotten after the the 20-45 minutes run time. It should be forgotten. It is mandatory. Rules outside this mythos are not clear. Should you remember? Should you forget?

You see, you don't intend to, but you forget. You forget names, faces, feelings. You forget what your dead uncle looked like. And grandma becomes a hazy memory from some other lifetime. Old photos point to days and people you vaguely remember. And you realise you remember them more from the repeated viewings of the photo album than from the actual memory. Your face suffers the same fate. You know you are looking at the 2-year old you because you are told so. Scientists have proven this. Sometimes what you think happened never happened and memories are not foolproof. The brain changes constantly, and so do memories. The plasticity of memory, long term potentiation, neuroregeneration in hippocampus. But now I am digressing into the realm of neuroscience. Terms from another distant lifetime.

Remembering is not easy.

You repeat your experience over and over again to various friends, various family members till it turns into an anecdote, a story. Enough repetitions, and you start spouting stock phrases to tell it. Even more repetitions, it becomes fiction. It becomes something you narrate. Something you spent time creating and polishing. A story you perform. With the right emphasis, right sighs, right pauses. Meaning belongs to a previous universe.

You have to constantly create new ones.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A reflection on hate

I was walking down a crowded road the other evening. Groups of boys on bikes, or on feet kept passing by-busy chatting, laughing on their inside jokes and maybe scouting passing girls as potential girlfriends/wives. They were harmless. But the kind of hatred that sprung in my heart was not something I am used to. It was not harmless. "I will kill them even if they as much dared to pass a comment on any girl here." I fumed. My brain stewed in agonising details of the Delhi case. I was plotting how I would hit these boys who were, of course, going to molest someone. I shuddered after some 15 minutes of these thoughts. Not at how unsafe I felt, but what kind of an untrusting, violent being I had become.  
Punishment is essential for a crime, but extreme anger can turn us into beasts ourselves. Wishing death on anyone is never a healthy thought. Heinous crimes deserve no mercy but I wish there was some way in which we could protect ourselves as we meted out a death sentence. Or has the veil of civilization lifted and we no longer can expect that? Or has crime exposed a flaw within all of us, that as we punish, we must suffer. 

Friday, 19 October 2012


The land forced to yield to water for jungles of skyscrapers
with anodized windows and welded greed
minions of directionless forces slathering on cement
the minions dying for food and killing in the process
a hundred other dreams.

To breathe sometimes i run away from this land piled under concrete
i run to hide further, farther from the city
i run and find the brick kilns there
and the benzyl smell of cheap plastic
i run back into my town

The city finds me there
and builds buildings, flyovers and bridges
flooding sodium lights in my room.
my curtains recede leaving me bare
to the prying eyes of a window 3 inches away

i long for my childhood pastures
now under a million hungry feet. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A rant

There is a switch which goes on in everyone's mind as soon as a single girl crosses 25. The light which the switching on of this switch generates, manages to pale every other finer feeling in comparison. You know what I mean, much like the sun's light obliterating every star's. So, I, who was once a "smart girl", "slightly obese girl", "the-one-who's-studying-neurobiology girl", "really funny girl", "a short tempered girl", "oh-so-ambitious girl", "the-one-who-writes-well girl" (ahem) is now reduced to only "not-yet-married-girl". This light, which this God-forsaken switch casts, manages to make sure all my other epithets are wiped off. Although, the negative ones pop out at times when they discuss why I am "not-married-yet".

So, I since I am "oh-so-ambitious", I decided that I needed to "study abroad". I chanced upon a really nice course and popped out to the United Kingdom as soon as I could. I led an extremely interesting year. A backpacking trip to Italy, bad scores on my assignments, night-outs which I don't remember, writer's block, enriching museums and conversations, a sprained ankle, being homeless for a while, staying with wonderful friends and horrible bouts of homesickness. The last few bits and the cold, cold weather made me come back as soon as I could. 

After getting back, I expected a hero's welcome (see that's where I went wrong, I should've expected a heroine's welcome). Anyway, point being, after being back to my native land, the only welcome I received was a standard question "So, when are you getting married now?". Imagine! No parties, no curiosity about my exploits in the First World, no "*wink *wink, how much did you drink?" questions. Just a cold, hard "When's the wedding now?" stare. 

For years, I had seen my cousin brothers returning to India to parties and special sessions where people made them talk for hours about life abroad. I mean, these guys kept going and coming back for years and each year there would be these "Oh my! He's back" parties. Ok, some of these guys did get asked "when's the wedding?", but that was only if he was past 30 and if he seemed effeminate. Otherwise, the "let the party (I am thinking of a bad word here) with the firang babes be on!" 

As I was saying, the singularity of thought of these numerous "aunties, uncles and others" amazes me. A good career, a house purchase, a car purchase, the existence of an enriching life for a single girl over 25 are not to be lauded or spoken about unless accompanied by the mention of a marriage date.

Me and so many of my friends are leading purposeful, productive and happy lives. Some of them are even married. Observing this and reading many other things I have come across so far have lead me to believe that humans strive to be happy. And when we are happy, single or married, we should be satisfied and celebrate that instead of basing our life's happiness on some random incident in the distant future which may or may not happen. 

I understand the importance of a good relationship or a marriage. But what I do not understand is this invalidation of my entire existence without the stamp of a husband. Incidentally, I happily exist. 

Find this reblogged here:


Saturday, 31 March 2012


I am being watched
By omnipresent eyes
Privacy is not the right of a woman.
Clothing is mentally stripped off by people on the road
Every rift, every curve analysed and objectified and priced
I might don a burkha
a naqab to curtain against stares
But I know, from their experience
It doesn't matter what I wear.

My brain too, is now being watched
By automated bots
Privacy is not in the net bargain I had.
My mind is dissected by advertisers
Every click, the questioning words I type and myriad worlds I enter
I am quizzed and sold products I won't care to buy
a policy stops nothing
Money can be made from voyeurism
I know, I am a statistic.