Sunday, December 31, 2017

Poems, Prayers & Promises

"I don't think I'm going to complete my project in time guys". Sherin said.

I gave credit to her, at least she was thinking about work.

'Biriyani House' was packed that afternoon, we had walked over for our final lunch together of 2014.

The loud clanging of utensils in the background only served to heighten the chaos inside the main dining area, we had to shout in order to be heard.

Work-wise it had been a largely unproductive week.

Coming to the office on the days between Christmas and the New Year was a challenge in itself.

It is essentially a very confusing period between two long holidays.

Karthik and I blamed our diet and briefly gave up our high protein sprout based lunch, we also started taking coffee breaks every 15 minutes but nothing was helping.

"Maybe we shouldn't talk about work guys". I suggested.

Most people on the table nodded in agreement.

Then there was an awkward silence.

That's when I realized one of the weirdest things about work lunches - It is so hard to find anything else to discuss other than work.

I tried to think of something we could talk about that didn't include deadlines, review articles and powerpoint presentations, but clearly I was drawing a blank, we all were.
I could sense us all taking turns staring at our glasses on the table and at the kitchen door hoping our food would arrive soon and put an end to what seemed to be the longest break in a conversation ever.

"Any plans for the new year"? Anita asked Karthik.

Karthik took his signature deep breath.

We watched his lungs expand anticipating his reply.

Microseconds before he could exhale our biriyanis arrived.

After that he didn't really care much about the question.

I am sure at this time that he was sick of eating those sprouts for so long, new year could wait, this was biriyani time.

By the end of our meal, I knew what everyone was up to we all were looking forward to different things

One tradition stood out from the rest.

Ankita was waiting for an email.

Yes you read it right, she was eagerly waiting for an email.

We obviously demanded more details.

She told us about a Swiss-German gentleman she had met few years ago who worked for an international organization. His work involved traveling around the world.
These were not always pleasant places to be, he was often deployed to troubled areas and war zones.
This guy had been everywhere, Libya, Somalia, East Timor, the Middle East.
He tried to collect as many email addresses as possible of all the people he met along the way.

At the end of every trip, or whenever he found time in between, he would update a draft in his inbox detailing his best experiences from visiting a country or meeting someone who left a mark.

At the end of the year, on December 31, he would send the email out to everyone on his address book.

He had been doing this for a long time and the number of people on his list had only grown bigger in time.

She looked forward to reading his email every year since she first met him at a conference in college.

When I asked her why she liked reading his letters, she said it felt as though she was a part of something bigger, and one day she hoped to write a travelogue of her own.

The same day I decided to dedicate a blog post at the end of every year just as a reflection on the most important things that happened to me in the preceding 12 months.

So taking a deep breath like Karthik always does, with no biriyani around to distract me, let me give you a review of 2017.
You will not believe how I began this year.

Chances are you probably think I am making this up.

But I promise you, this is how it went down.

The last thing I did in 2016 before leaving for work was say a tiny prayer and publish my last blog post for the year.

It was unusually peaceful in the ICU.

The telemetry monitors were quiet, the phones weren't ringing, I periodically checked my pager to see if it was working, but it lay silently in my pocket.

My resident and I seemed to be headed for a uneventful call.

At 11:35 PM, to be polite, the toast hit the floor-jam side down.

Absolute chaos ensued as a patient awaiting transfer out of the ICU suddenly stopped breathing.

The monitors went crazy, the phones rang off their handles and the pagers didn't stop beeping.

"You should switch" The nurse yelled at me noticing my chest compressions were becoming weaker.

I wiped the sweat of my brow and switched with my colleague.

"And by the way, Happy New Year everyone" she said.

I paused to catch my breath and looked at the clock in the room, it was a 12:03 AM.

There was no time to celebrate, our attempts to resuscitate the patient continued through the night and I wish I could say he made it, but that would not be true.

That night was just the beginning of a very eventful year.
Watching Dead Poets Society many years ago as a teenager was a turning point in my life.

One of the most unforgettable scenes from the movie is Robin Williams' Carpe Diem speech.

"They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary."

Carpe Diem became the motto of my life.

I always knew it wasn't possible to make the most of every moment in life, but this year I realized that sometimes its okay to not be okay.

The peaks and troughs of life are unpredictable, but neither last forever.

Things always get better, even if they may not get fixed or return to how they used to be, we will always find a way to be okay again.

Its only a matter of time.

Everything passes.
We begin most of our days as residents with a 1 hour classroom lecture on the 12th floor at the hospital.

Theres usually a new quote written everyday on a white board facing east.

Its something I look forward to everyday.

Some of my friends take it seriously while some others have a little fun with it every now and then.

I laughed out loud when I read this quote last year by a no longer anonymous friend of mine.

'The worst part about kissing a perfect ten is how cold the mirror feels on your lips'.

For the past month though the quote on the white board hasn't changed.

'Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible' - Dalai Lama.

And in time some of the more mischievous ones among us decided to draw what looked like an orc with a sharp pointy tail and 2 horns next to the quote.

The longer the quote stayed up on the wall the more I read it and the more I realized that kindness is a choice.

It occurred to me that even in the most impossible of situations you can decidedly choose to be kind.

This is something I want to carry over with me to the next year.

And yes, kind or not, I got rid of the orc drawing next to it :)
And finally for the best thing that happened to me this year.

If you have been following this blog from the start you will know that cupid and I have a long history.

Our friendship has been tempestuous and yet hilarious.

After avoiding me for years and following a series of missed shots, the cute little angel took aim and fired an arrow that went straight through my left ventricle.

Love came to me at a time when I least expected it, but when I needed it most.

And like it is said, love changed everything.

My brother once theorized that age 30 is the best year in a persons lifetime.

Why is he always right?

2017 was a roller coaster ride - Scary, exciting and incredibly fast.

But all things considered it was defnitely one of the most important years of my life.

I had good times and some hard ones too, opportunities presented to me and brought along different challenges with them, but the best part was that through it all I continued to change, learn and grow.

And for all of that and more, I thank God.
When I started blogging many years ago, finding a name for my blog was a huge challenge.

After days of brainstorming with a very good friend of mine, I decided that my blog would be named Poems, Prayers and Promises.

It is actually the title of my favorite John Denver song.

But sadly for me, the name was already taken, and a few weeks later I chose to call my blog 'The Sentimental Idiot' instead.

At the time that this post gets published you are probably in the middle of your own favorite New Years tradition. 

Whether it is dancing to the sound of our favorite music, raising a toast hoping for a better year, or making resolutions, our New Years traditions are essentially poems, prayers and promises of different kinds.

As I sign off on the last post for 2017 with a few lines from the song, I thank you too for being a part of this sentimental idiots journey and I pray and hope that 2018 will bring happiness, hope and love your way.

I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all, it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.
and lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire
while all my friends and my old lady sit and pass a pipe around.
And talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in.
How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care.
How long it’s been since yesterday, what about tomorrow
and what about our dreams and all the memories we share?


Until Next Time

TGV