Friday, July 24, 2015


I am allergic to ants… red ants. Just looking at the little troopers travelling army like, gives me goose bumps! No joking… if I am bitten and no action is taken, I will have to be carried out on a stretcher. I’ve realised quite late in life that you can develop allergies that you never had before. One sunny, beautiful day in Bangalore we were standing outside my cousin’s place in Indira Nagar, waiting for her to answer the doorbell and a sea of ants lying comfortably under granite slabs wedged between grass patches decided to converge on an unsuspecting victim.  By the time we went inside I had broken into hives and could hardly breathe. A terrified cousin pushed me into the car and on to the first hospital she spied. A  quiet unoccupied place with no activity. As they helped me in, the doctor happened to walk in to pick up his bag which he had forgotten when he left for lunch. He took one look at me, wheeled me into Emergency, and gave me a Betnasol shot or was it Avil? I had to be given oxygen and after a couple of hours we left.
I was in the right place at the right time. My cousin fortunately knew driving. She had no clue about any hospital in the area, but drove there by instinct.  The doctor luckily for me forgot his bag. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been alive to tell you this story  as I was heading for anaphylactic shock.  He told me how to cope with it, carry a vial of injection, in my handbag, keep anti allergic pills at all times, carry a repellent and above all not to scratch, for that releases more histamine.  Soon after it happened, I remember how I used to spray my feet liberally with  “Off” whenever we sat on the lawns of the Club. Though I still carry my my emergency pouch I am not paranoid as I was and have learnt to cope, and recognise the symptoms.
As far as doctors are concerned, select one whom you feel are comfortable with, and one you can talk to, not necessarily the one at the top of the profession. With due respect to them,  they might not be persons who are on the same plane as you. Some of us tend to be so overawed that we neither take cognisance of what the good doctor is saying, nor forget to ask whatever you thought of asking. You come home feeling pretty foolish and at the same time hesitate to call the doctor for clarification.
On one occasion just before an international holiday, a lady in the family, went in for a casual check up as was usual with her.  The doctor, a leading cardiologist made the perfunctionary examination, and intuitively good at diagnosis,  advised her to cancel her holiday. After investigations she had a pacemaker fitted in place of the much planned holiday with the family.  It was a life saving visit to the doctor and his insight.
Another young man well known to us, was forced by his family to go for a check up which he avoided like the plague, being a high flying executive with “no time”. While he waited for the concerned technicians he suddenly decided to go in for an executive check up, which had an extra test which was PSA, generally not necessary for men younger than 50. To his utter shock the levels were very high and he needed surgery immediately. Again by the grace of God he  is completely well and leads an active life.
To be at the right place at the right time,  we would be greatly blessed if we have a doctor who has good handwriting. At one point or the other we have come home to read unintelligible squiggles which form part of the prescription. While it is all explained to us, and we nod our heads knowledgeably in the consulting room, our minds draw a blank once we are out it, and we gaze at the doctors writing in trepidation. Learn to make little notes while you are there, even if you are laughed at! Some hospitals have the protocol of typing out the prescriptions before we leave but often enough their interpretations of the writing have gone awry, and this has to be pointed out.  You cannot be too careful, and while the doctors have the best of intentions, remember how busy they are, and you need to participate and ask the questions, nothing in life is ever handed out on  a platter.
While most of us are so critical of doctors, I often wonder if we realise the pressures of their daily lives especially the surgeons. No wonder then that some of the surgeons outside of India, organise music in the operating theatres. The tradition of playing music during medical procedures goes way back to ancient times, when the Greeks regarded Apollo as the God of healing and music.
Apart from calming frayed nerves of the operating team,  music had a way of distracting the patient from the dread of the situation. To quote music therapist Melanie Kwan of the Association for Music Therapy, Singapore, who addressed  the American Psychological Association, "When their acute pain symptoms were relieved, patients were finally able to rest." It is believed that “active music engagement allowed the patients to reconnect with the healthy parts of themselves, even in the face of a debilitating condition or disease-related suffering."

When driving with the music system is on is considered a distraction, I wonder if the surgeons operating to music do not feel like swaying to the music, rather than give 100% to their work which requires so much of intense concentration….but on the contrary I believe it eases their tensions making them operate better.    I remember reading a newspaper report on surgeons operating with music in India, but we have to check that one out. If the patient is given options where you fill up a form and one line asks, “choice of music during surgery”  I would opt for Beethoven, Mozart or classical flute by Shashank rather than a Martin Garrix or new age composers, or even Elvis from our generation!!


Something’s abuzz in the city. the #100 sari pact. People are talking about it, yes both men and women. What is this sari pact? Does it have political overtones?  I thought I would demystify this phenomena !  The pact to craft activists like me is like  manna from heaven.  I have intensely regretted the fact that the sari is veering towards oblivion, regardless of the fact that the saree shops enjoy peaking sales during festivals and marriage seasons. I have been using any platform that I get to shout myself hoarse that the younger set should wear saris at least once in a way.
No one wants to wear saris anymore. Not just the next gen, but ammas and pattis. Inconvenient, they say to wear at home. Who wants to wear the flapping 6 yards with the inner trappings of an underskirt and a well fitted blouse?  So comfy to slip into that loose caftan, often termed nightie, or get into a beautiful salwar kameez. No worry about maintenance, starching and ironing if you happen to be a rigid cotton person like me…. I too am guilty of falling into the same trap, opting for comfort at home. The difference is that whenever I go out, I make it a point to wear a sarees, as I am making a statement.
Take a look around and you will find that most  maids come dressed in salwar kameezes.  Take a walk in the morning, and you see young women emerging  from slums wearing frilly nighties, with a babies  perched on their hips, or pumping water into buckets with gusto,  the wetness seeping right above their hemlines! I have made it a rule though, that  no maid of mine will report to work in a “nightie” as none of us lounge in these.
The pact began when two friends, Anju Maudgal Kadam and Ally Mathan were discussing the need to wear saris to save it from extinction. A casual conversation which morphed into a movement.  They made a pact to wear sarees at least a 100 times before the end of the year 2015. It didn’t matter what saree it was, or if it was the same saree worn a multiple times. They influenced their friends in other cities to join the pact as only young people can. That was the birth of the #100 saree pact which went viral, even international! The media was quick to pick it up, and the #100 saree pact was reported in the print media, radio and television.
This apart, the founders have saree dates, where like minded women, (even if they are not the saree wearing kind) meet at coffee shops or restaurants, wearing sarees of course. I was invited to the saree date meeting at Amethyst, and it was, for me an eye opener to feel the enthusiasm of the group of 15 or more. Each narrated a saree story, and it didn’t matter what saree, as long as it was one. Saree dates were organised all over the country, as well as in the UK and US! Getting the youth to start wearing this fabulous unstitched garment was to me a big step in keeping our traditions alive. I prayed this might not be a flash in the pan kind of thing.
I grabbed the opportunity to push this pact a little more, to widen its concept. Why not make a pact to wear handlooms? At least  60 times out of the 100?  I talked about the way the weavers laboured to hand weave one saree, and afterwards to locate a market when tradition collapsed in favour of bling. The response was very encouraging, and I promised to send them historical notes and point them in the direction of  where such gorgeous saris could be acquired. And yes even deliver a little talk with a power point presentation to drive home the point!
When did the saree actually arrive? This is a nebulous area, and one can only base it on conjecture. It could date back several centuries, when an old statue of a priest was unearthed from the Indus Valley Civilization where he is wearing a garment draped like a saree. It could be that the dhothi which is the oldest known garment that was draped marked the beginning of the saree.
There was this primordial  belief among ancient Hindus that the unstitched garment indicated purity. In fact even needles going through the fabric was considered  inauspicious. The ancient sculptures of goddesses indicated a nivvi or the pallu as we know it today. It was tied at the waist, covered the legs and spread out fan like in front as a decorative drape.
Author Soha Parekh who wrote a book on the saree, shares a folk tale with a charming poetical observation…which suggests that the sari was born on the loom of the weaver, who dreamt of a beautiful woman, and as he wove, “he captured the shimmer of her tears, the drape of her tumbling hair, the colours of her many moods and the softness of her touch and her exquisite grace…” He kept on working on the loom till the saree evolved.
Our country has such diverse cultures be it textiles, food or sarees. Every state has its own speciality, and has a heritage stamp of its own.
One question I have often been asked is, will the sari go into the annals of history as an obsolete, once favoured national garment like the kimono? A few years back I couldn’t answer the question.
Today with the saree pact going round, more youngsters are not just joining the pact but are an integral part of it, interested in knowing the history, the varieties, and filled with determination to bring about a great revival of this wondrous garment. I can now say with impunity, the saree is here to stay.
And to stretch it further, why not have a handloom saree day at our Club on one of the festival celebrations? That would ensure that with everyone, young or old wearing a saree are part of the #100 saree pact!