Sunitha’s TED talk

Name: Dr. Sunitha Krishnan,  40,   mental health worker.

Work :  Giving voice to the voiceless sex-abuse victims ; an identiy to these ‘Anamikas’ ; helping them build up self-confidence  Has  rescued and rehab-ed  3,200 sex-abused females, aged  from three years to 40.

Motivation :  Gang-raped by eight men when she was 16 ; ostricised by society for the next two years.

Job hazard:   Has been beaten up many times by  thugs,  pimps and brothel keepers ; one of her staff members was killed in her effort to  rescue  a sex-abused woman.

Her TED talk:  12.42 mins  indictment of  our society;  scathing commentary on victimisation of victims of sexual abuse.

Her poser:   Would we accept one of these Anamikas  into  our homes as maid, house nurse or nanny ? Would we feel comfortable with  their children playing and moving  with ours ? Till such time there are not enough of us who can say,  ‘Yes, we will’,   Sunitha feels her work wouldn’t be done.

Her wish:  Each of us talks  this through to at least two others in our family and social circle. They,  in turn, could do the same with two of their contacts.

My wish:  All TV channels,  notably,  those dedicated to religious faiths, should telecast Sunitha’s TED talk.


A Sunday afternoon with Ila

BerkeleyAug9 057Her parents had asked us over to Berkeley Marina to picnic with 16-month-old Ila.  On a clear day, they say, if you look hard,  and far enough into the waters,  you could even catch a glimpse of San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge from the spot where we picnicked. To be precise, the picnic  invite was for my grandsons – Nikhil,18 months, and Sidharth,three years – and I tagged along, as live-in cheer leader,  always at hand to marvel at their playfulness.

On this Sunday afternoon, however, the person I came to marvel was Ila –  her ever-smiling face, her observant eyes, indeed, her very presence among us on the outdoors.  The last time I saw her, nearly an year ago, Ila was no more than a breathing bundle of tissues and bones,  with a smile nonetheless, sustained by medicines, and sheer tenacity of her parents.Her father Srinivas attributes Ila’s remarkable recovery to  “too much fight in the little girl to let adversity, unspeakable pain, and a constant threat to life interfere with her sense of fun”. 

I had little knowledge of Ila’s medical condition till I read her father’s blog.  Last updated in April, the blog gives a perceptive account of Ila’s state of health and the state of mind of her parents.  When she was barely eight weeks old Ila was diagnosed,  and she went through a five-hour surgery for Biliary Atresia,  a medical condition pertaining to malformation of the gall bladder and bile duct. The liver fails to drain the bile salts into the intestines, resulting in cirrhosis. The surgery Ila had to go through,when she was no more than two months old, was a “frighteningly long (5 hours) marvel of medical procedure” with an intimidating name – Kasai’s portoenterostomy.  As she was undergoing this surgery Ila’s father, waiting it out at the lobby, ‘went through a thousand kinds of hell’  at the thought of her pain and heartbreaking predicament.

And a million more hells were to be endured yet,  in the coming weeks and months. I recall Meera,  my daughter-in-law and a doctor, telling me that during the weeks following the surgery Ila’s fluctuating health condition necessitated frequent spells of intensive care at the  hospital. She showed signs of mild jaundice at the age of 5 months, and also ‘a sub-optimal growth’. This was an unmistakable pointer that Ila  needed a liver transplant.

What  followed in the lives of Ila and her parents  is best described by her father:  Ila’s condition deteriorated at record speed…Maya and I were told we needed to be assessed to be live donors. Ila was admitted to the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital.

BerkeleyAug9 031After scores of tests done on Ila and her parents Maya was chosen as the live donor of the left-lateral lobe of the liver.Dr.Waldo Concepsion came out of the examination room describing ‘how gorgeous Maya’s liver is’. Dr.Carlos Esquivel,who did the transplant,  pronounced Ila’s  ‘the sickest liver I have seen in a long time’.  Of the team of surgeons Ila’s father had this to say – “I would gladly surrender my ego to these Gods and offer them my life long servitude if I did not know it would only embarrass them”.

Memo to blogger Srinivas: Those concerned with the ongoing healthcare reform debate would benefit from your perspective on the functioning of the prevalent system.

Car crash on our way to airport

crash car 006Viewing this image you would not hold out much hope for its passengers. I wouldn’t,  either, had I not survived the crash. This was the vehicle in which my wife and I were going to the Bangalore airport to catch an early morning Dubai-bound flight. It happened near Bididi, nearly two hours after we had left Mysore,  at the dead of night.  Our vehicle  brushed  against a bitumen laden truck,  taking a ‘U’turn on a high-speed highway.

crash car 005We were at the rear-seat, asleep. I didn’t know what hit us, as I woke up to the crash; my wife had passed out on impact.  Stranded on a highway in pitch darkness, I felt futile and helpless. For a few agonised minutes I believed it was all over, as my wife wouldn’t respond to my frantic calls, and efforts to shake her awake.

It must have been minutes,  but seemed an eternity, before my wife  regained consciousness.  She was dazed, and kept asking what had happened, and why, and where we were heading , what for. Whatever I told her didn’t register, for she kept repeating the same questions, to a point when I lost patience. I found myself utterly at a loss as what to do next.

Our driver Mahadevan knew the drill. He informed his travel office in Mysore; called the police, and the ambulance service. Meanwhile a crowd gathered, even though it was past midnight.  Somewhat irritated at our becoming  a spectacle for curious passers-by, I gave vent to my frustration, asking the driver why he wouldn’t try to stop a passing vehicle to take my wife to hospital, instead of wasting time answering silly questions from inquisitive onookers.

I didn’t realise then that  Mahadevan, hurt and bleeding from his right ear, was doing his best, unmindful of his injury. I learnt later that he had a slashed ear. A few minutes later a policeman showed up on a bike,but there was no sign of ambulance.

Under stress I get clumsy at handling  things, even a cell phone. I managed to call co-brother Raghu in Mysore.  I had a credit card, but not much cash.  He called his co-brother Narsimhan in Bangalore, who was the first to turn up at the hospital at the crack of dawn. As it turned out, I didn’t need cash. The ambulance ride was free; and I used credit card at the hospital.  Incidentally, it came as a relief to learn that the Karnataka government has a free ambulance service in place on the Mysore-Bangalore highway. So dire was its need for me that I would have  readily paid a thousand rupees, if only I had the cash.

It was, I believe,  nearly half-hour ambulance ride to BGS Global hospital at Kengari. The approach road to an otherwise well-equipped hospital is bumpy, and bad for fracture cases. And the multi-speciality hospital,  located close to the highway receives mainly accident victims. I see repair of potholed  road to the hospital as a medical priority in critical care. 

Emergency service was prompt, and efficient. Dr Venkatesh who attended on my wife stitched up a nine-inch cut on her neck; had her right shoulder x-rayed for supected fracture; and kept up a conversation to calm our nerves.  At my request he agreed to take a call from my anxious daughter-in-law, a doctor in the US. I found Dr Venkatesh a multi-tasker with reassuring way with words in dealing with patients – the kind, I believe, would be an assset in any medical emergency room. I wonder why a hospital that has a well-functioning ER and claims to have world-class infrastructure, including helipad for air ambulance,  can’t fix its bumpy driveway.

crash car 008On our way back to Mysore, after a day in hospital, I stopped by to see,  for the first time, our damaged vehicle. The scale of damage may spell death for others. But I associate life,  my reality of it,  with that mangled mess on wheels, if only because my wife and I are still alive to see it. The image of the wrecked Sumo  tells me that at times a split-second or sheer hair-breadth is all that is there  between life and a pointless death.

Dr Nayeem’s omission

nayeem2I hold him guilty of omisssion.  Star of Mysore columnist Javeed Nayeem in his Friday  piece  wrote extensively about the Doctors’ Musical Nite, but  he made no  mention of Sarah, a local engineering student, who made her debut as stage singer at Kalamandira.

She rendered with eloquence a Latha Mangeshwar number from an old movie, Woh Kaun Thi  (Who was she ?) The show organisers, I gather, were impressed enough to ask her over for their next musical evening.  For a starter Sarah gave a promising performance. 

Woh kaun thi and why did the SoM columnist ignore her debut ?  Could 100_0336it be because Sarah shares her last name with him? I believe  Sarah  to be a victim of her father’s sense of modesty.

Mysore’s medical community provides a forum in Geet Gatha Chal, to tap the musical talent of its members. Popularity of their concert was evident from the turnout at kalamandira. Not only was there a capacity crowd inside the 2,500-seat hall, there was an audience spill-over that packed the lobby as well.

The success of the show should set the medical fraternty  thinking about  showcasing their other talents, such as dance,  painting, and photography.

Keep It Going, Dr.Natashekar

You don’t have to be a doctor to make a mark as a stage singer. But being one serves as your calling card to open the door of opportunity. I wonder if Dr Natashekar’s musical talent would have had such public exposure, if  the singer had been a shop assistant, instead of an ENT specialist. He is known widely as doctor who also sings well.

Left-handed compliment, perhaps. Dr Natashekar doesn’t mind. He is a doctor first; music making is his spare time passion. Point is, Dr Natashekar is not competing with Sonu Nigam. “Singing is my hobby, and I am happy that it entertains others,”says the doctor, who leads a similarly talented group of local doctors.  Styled as Geet Gatha Chal the doctors’ cultural group organises free concerts at Mysore’s Kalamandira. “We’ve been doing this since 2001,” says Dr Natashekar, adding that over this period Geet Gatha Chal has built a name for itself as a crowd-pulling music group. Inviting me to his next concert (Nov.9) Dr Natashekar suggested that I be at Kalamandira half-hour early.

I had gone to his clinic at Ramaswamy Circle with an ear  complaint; and we started talking music on seeing a trophy with a photo of Mukesh on Dr Natashekar’s desk – ‘I got this for our ‘Mukesh Evening’ concert in August’.  Dr Natashekar played to a packed house for three hours of vintage film songs credited to playback singer Mukesh.  

Portraits of Dr Natashekar’s favourite trio – Mukesh, Rafi and Kishore – found space on the wall of his clinic. Outside,  at the reception counter, I saw a photo of our doctor paying respect to Siddaganga Swami at Tumkur. To mark the swamiji’s 100th birthday celebrations Dr Natashekar brought out a CD of his rendering of  Basavashwara’s Vachanas.

Geet Gatha Chal is Mysore’s own music group of the local medical fraternity that puts to public use their personal hobby.  The group includes dermatologist P A Kushalappa, Dr A L Hemalatha, Dr Sneshasri and a few others.  A one-of-its-kind cultural initiative that is worth emulating by talented professionals in other towns is not widely known beyond Mysore.  Geet Gatha Chal doesn’t have a website.

Dr Natashekar, like most other professionals in Mysore, is not very coversant with Internet usage.  He could do with some help and guidance from software professionals who admire Dr Natashekar’s music.  A website of his group would surely spread public awareness about the good work done by this group; and help Geet gatha Chal network with interested individuals and groups wth flair for music.

Geet Gatha Chal can upload video-clips of their concerts on YouTube for the benefit of non-resident Mysoreans who admire their music.  With a website of its own and YouTube exposure Dr Natashekar and his group could get sponsored for concert tours by NRI associations, notably, Kannada Sanghas in the US and other countries.

Meanwhile, Geet Gatha Chal could visit local welfare institutions such as orhanages and homes for the aged to entertain inmates. Spending time, an odd Sunday afternoon, with them could by a fulfilling experience for the music group.  Dr Natashekar and his friends would do well to reach out to the  folks who have neither the opportunity nor abiity to make it to Kalamandira.