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The element of surprise [Jan. 30th, 2013|12:43 am]
[Tags|, ]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Rita - Shaneh]

Recently, I (re)discovered the art of coming out of the closet. This was due to a combination of awkward questions about girls and my own compulsion to "tell the truth", a habit that, ironically, may have been drummed into me in my Islamic Studies class at school.

I am no stranger to closets (said he of the poor dress sense). I have had to come out to various groups of people as a vegetarian, an atheist, a Hebrew-speaker, and oh, as gay. The reactions to all of them have ranged from non-chalant 'Oh right's, to tight-lipped, wide-eyed nods masking a profound horror, to questions about my sanity.

But not long ago, I was in the company of some bona fide straight blokes who were, until then, unaware of my inclinations. We were intellectually discussing the group of Latin American girls that we had met the night before, with the guys admiring bust sizes, facial features, and even personality traits. Throughout this discussion, I was sitting on the sofa smiling, biting my tongue, patiently waiting for the brownies to bake and the topic to change.

Suddenly one of them, who was standing in the balcony smoking, turned to me and asked, "What about you bro, what's your story? You have a girlfriend?"
"Nah.. I don't.."
"Really? You've never had one?"
A short pause followed.
"Erm, I bat for the other team," I said, decidedly not beating around the bush.
"Oh," replied one of them, having understood the expression. He took a long drag from his cigarette, as if contemplating a better response.
I had to be more explicit with the other one: "I am gay."

What followed was the standard barrage of questions - do you have a boyfriend, does your family know, have you really never fancied a girl etc., - which I patiently answered whilst scraping the slightly burnt brownie off the baking tray.

I've been 'out' for over seven years now. I am well past the Tell-Everyone-On-The-Street phase and I now view my sexual orientation as just another part of my biology, rather than a defining feature of my character. 'Coming out' to someone new usually doesn't arouse such awkwardness in me.
But this time, it was different. I don't know why, I wasn't too comfortable at first telling these (straight) guys. I guess I just cared about my friendship with them and didn't want to give them a rude shock. But a (smallish) rude shock now is better than a bigger shock later on.

Later that night, before we went out for a party, one of the (allegedly) straight guys berated me for wearing mismatched clothes and footwear and proceeded to give me fashion advice. It was my turn to be shocked!
Link15 stitches Suture me up!

Misery [Jun. 6th, 2012|01:38 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Whine, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Mohit Chauhan - Mann Lafanga]

For my last rotation, my supervisor Dr Lawrence offered me the chance to do an audit of his clinic for him. I showed polite interest, as one does, and he may have misconstrued this look of interest as genuine because he seized the chance to tell us about the minutiae of the previous audit. Before I knew it, I had been cornered into doing the audit. I didn't sweat it, I thought it would only be a short one and it wouldn't encroach on my clinical time.

Dr Lawrence took me to meet his beleaguered secretary, Jess, in whose office he explained how the audit would work and that Jess would be 'happy to help'. He droned on a bit about how his clinic functions (...shockingly similar to all the other clinics I've attended). When Jess thought he wasn't listening, she turned to me and pleaded in a whisper, "Why are you doing this?!". Half-disgustedly, she started to print out a list of clinic patients within a particular six-month period. The printer hummed happily as it churned out page after page, filled with names. My first job was to find the 'new' patients in the clinic (i.e. those who were seeing Dr Lawrence in clinic for the first time); this job I duly delegated to Jess who highlighted their names for me.

Next, I had to find these patients' hospital notes in the fabled land of Medical Records. Jess proceeded to explain to me the rules and regulations of Medical Records: You can only go in after 1 pm. You can only get three sets of notes from the staff. You can't wear striped shirts. You must never turn your back on a shelf of notes. You may only communicate in Morse. And on it went...

Image source:

Jess very kindly took me to Medical Records that afternoon. It is hands-down, the most abysmal place that I've set foot in, a sort of purgatory for medical students and junior doctors. Not a window in sight. Reams of medical notes stacked in claustrophobia-inducing shelf after moveable shelf. Queues of medical secretaries, receptionists and porters waiting their turn to get into the aisles to 'pull' a set of notes, whilst secretly dreaming of crushing someone between two shelves. Looks laden with suspicion passing between the inmates. A loud radio - a beacon of hope in this dull, stagnant environment - playing a cheery pop tune.

Jess tread carefully and I followed suit, not knowing what was coming next. She showed me how to locate medical notes using the patients' unique ID numbers - encrypted within the ID numbers was a code to work out which aisle and shelf the notes could be found on. COULD be found on - not WOULD be found on, a discovery that led to me pulling a few clumps of hair off my head.

Having imparted this miniscule amount of information, Jess briskly shuffled us out of there. For the next few weeks, Jess found suitable patients for my audit and I dragged myself to Medical Records two or three times a week to find said patients' notes. Many a time I'd go in with a list of five ID numbers and only return with one or two sets of notes. I began to recognize the faces of the similar downtrodden and crushed souls like myself and even attempted to befriend some of them: there was a youngish boy, whose polite smile veiled the horror in his bespectacled eyes. After thanking me for finishing my note-pulling exercise and giving way to him, he told me half-jokingly that he was going to go kill himself. I briefly wondered if I should call the psychiatry team, but decided that it would be too much of an effort and would mean having to stay in Medical Records a bit longer - a thought that was enough to induce suicidal ideation in me.

Then one day I struck gold. I had a list of ten patient ID numbers that I needed to get. I went into Medical Records, determined to hunt them down. I strategized my route through the place, going to shelves where I was less likely to find a queue or where I could glare my way to the front of the queue. Pulling notes out successfully at super-sonic speed, I came to the bottleneck - between shelves 50 and 70, where the queues were always the longest. It finally got to my turn. I started to turn the handle to get into the aisle I needed when all of a sudden, a mammoth receptionist popped out of nowhere, mumbled a paltry 'Sorry darling' and began to push in the other direction. When I protested this blatant act of playground bullying, she dismissed my outburst saying that she needed the notes for a clinic which trumped whatever else I was going to use my notes for (i.e. an audit) and that I could speak to the manager if I wished to take the matter further. Looking daggers at her and silently wishing her an early demise, I let go of the handle.

When I finally left Medical Records that afternoon, I discovered that I had pulled 9 out of the 10 notes that I needed. An exhilaration rushed through me and for a few brief moments I felt like I had won the lottery. Then, realizing what a pitiful reaction that was, I hung my head and went to find a computer to feed the data from the notes into a dull, soul-destroying spreadsheet.
Link6 stitches Suture me up!

Broken Skin [Mar. 1st, 2012|01:19 am]
[Tags|, ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Spine, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Linkin Park - Rolling in the Deep]

Friday afternoon in a big teaching hospital, I had just finished observing a general neurology clinic which had been interesting - not because of the patients, but because the neurologist running the clinic had told me (quite politely) that I ought to shave as he didn't approve of my day-old stubble. I had glanced into the small mirror in the clinic room and instantly and wholeheartedly disagreed with the neurologist, thinking to myself that I looked rather dashing with a bit of facial hair and a shirt that was somewhat tight around my arms.

I lazily floated from the clinic to the café, foraging for food. I met two of the doctors from the neurology ward there, and since they didn't object to sharing a table with me for lunch, I sat with them and munched on my mustardy Quorny sandwich. They were (rightfully?) whingeing about their jobs and how they had to be on call etc., and I smiled stupidly thinking, "This is going to be me in a few years' time."

As part of the whingeing, one of the doctors was listing the jobs she had to do that afternoon, one of which was a lumbar puncture (I love how the caption under the picture on Wikipedia's lumbar puncture page says 'a patient undergoes a lumbar puncture at the hands of a neurologist' - doesn't sound persecutory at all...). The doctor turned to me and asked me, half playfully, "Do you want to do the LP?" using the sexier-sounding abbreviation.
With my mouth full of sticky bits of Quorn, lettuce and bread, I stopped chewing and gaped at her in disbelief. I nodded and agreed quickly in case she withdrew the offer.

After finishing lunch (which took a painfully long time), we went back to the neurology ward - not to do the LP, but to type up a letter for a different patient. Nearly bursting with excitement, I offered to type up the bloody letter for the doctor, in a bid to finish the 'small jobs' quickly so we could hurry down to the patient who needed an LP.

The patient arrived. Mr V was an elderly gentleman who had come in for some routine tests (LPs are "routine" for neurologists, as are MRI scans of the brain.. but I digress). The doctor went to see him first and explained what the procedure was going to involve and the associated risks etc. I patiently waited outside for Mr V to agree to letting me stab him quite deep with a fine needle. He agreed.
I went over the introduce myself to Mr V and his wife, who looked a bit hesitant (perhaps because I exuded inexperience). I then went to fetch the doctor so we could get the equipment ready and watched as the doctor assembled gloves, needles, swabs and specimen pots on to a trolley. We pushed the laden trolley and a cheerfully yellow sharps box to the patient's bedside. Once Mr V's back was adequately exposed, we asked him to lie on his side in the fetal position so we could have a feel of his backbones between which we would be inserting the needle for the LP. I marked the right spot on his lower back with an 'X' (which incidentally was a few centimeters off).

After making a fool of myself trying to put on a pair of sterile gloves as the unnerved Mrs V looked on, I proceeded to clean Mr V's back with some good old-fashioned iodine. The doctor then gave the local anesthetic, and we put our things together as we waited for the anesthetic to numb the area. I got the giant needle out of its packaging and saw Mrs V go a shade paler out of the corner of my eye as I began to insert the needle under the doctor's verbal instructions.

I hit bone the first time I went in. We withdrew the needle, reinserted it a different angle and then hit bone again! This went on for a good ten minutes with some pretty extreme repositioning, but I kept hitting bone. The doctor then tried on her own and managed to reach the border between the backbone and the spinal covering. Not wanting to take the glory of doing a successful LP away from me, the doctor handed over the rest of the procedure to me. I pushed the needle further in and lo, and behold! we had spinal fluid leaking out of the other side of the needle (which was facing me). We collected the spinal fluid in specimen bottles and testubes, withdrew the needle and put a disproportionately large surgical wound dressing over where the needle had broken his skin.

All throughout, Mr V remained calm and patient, mumbling a few words to his wife every now and then and to us when we needed him to. I was absolutely exhilarated, having done an LP. I relished the feeling of novelty and accomplishment at the time, fully aware that the procedure will become an oft-repeated, tedious chore for me if I am to carry on training as a physician.

I had flashbacks of one of the other doctors telling us students - in jest, may I add - that we'd have to sleep with one of the junior doctors if we wanted to do an LP, and I silently rejoiced at the fact that I didn't have illicit relations with anyone in order to get this awesome opportunity to injure someone with a needle (for their own good).

Link8 stitches Suture me up!

Take me to New York, I'd like to see TA [Nov. 8th, 2011|11:20 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Medicine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |cynicalcynical]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Jal - Aadat]

My elective isn't far off - only seven months away. Basically, during the summer between fourth and fifth year at med school, we get to go anywhere in the world to study medicine (or to drink cheap alcohol on an Asian beach whilst reassuring the medical school office by e-mail that we are, indeed, learning about the management of neurocysticercosis). Note that 'anywhere' excludes a few countries where wars have broken out or natural disasters (e.g. Justin Bieber) have struck. Therefore, the great big question staring me in the face is 'Where do I go?'

I had it all planned out. In fact, I had an idea about where I wanted to go for my elective even before I'd started medical school! The answer back then was 'Israel!' with a big grin on my face. I still very much want to go to sunny, hummusy 'Israel!'-with-a-big-grin-on-my-face. As with most things in my life, people question my odd choice. Why Israel? Depending on who's asking the question, I reply with standard one-liners like 'It's really warm there' or 'I'm fascinated by Israeli culture' or 'They have really good research opportunities there!'.
But my (slightly wet) dreams of going to Israel appear to be getting dismantled, slowly but surely, by a cruel mixture of medical school rules, Middle East politics and a magnetic force called family. This is how:
1. As mentioned above, since we are the medical school's responsibility on this extended holiday known as The Elective, it is their job to make sure we don't get killed by floods, stray bullets and the like. So the medical school office, depending on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, simply doesn't approve requests to go to countries that are currently being buggered by other countries e.g. Afghanistan. Surprisingly, Israel doesn't fall into this category - the FCO seems to be fine (at the moment) with Britons traveling to the Land of the Crazies. My worry (and prediction) is that this will probably change as Mr Liar-yahu and Hamas are having a round of friendly fire at the moment which might escalate to Total Apeshit War, prompting the FCO (and hence the medical school) to discourage travel to Israel. So should I even bother applying for an elective in Jerusalem? But I really really really weally want to go! Should I apply and have a firm Plan B i.e., an elective in a different country, in case Israel doesn't quite work out?
2. Family - cousins, to be precise - are planning to get happily married around the time of my elective. BUT WHAT ABOUT MY HAPPINESS?!! I want to attend their weddings but I'm quite certain I can't be in two places at once (I've tried.. it made my head spin) so it's going to be an extremely astronomically difficult choice between a dream-elective in El-'uds (assuming that no rockets are falling on it) and dancing at my cousins' week-long weddings.

If I did my elective in America, I could overcome both problems, innit. So I'm desperately trying to contact medical schools in the States that might accept a poor, downtrodden 4th year medical student for a clinical or research placement. No luck so far (oh thanks a ton, Universities of Florida, Texas, California and Harvard - I will have my revenge!). I'm still waiting to hear back from a few places - some do not have access to their own e-mail, as they are in the Third World (southern California).
The only downside to spending 10 weeks with Americans is that I might absorb some of their Neanderthal ways and come back with a deficit in my intelligence...
Link10 stitches Suture me up!

White stuff [Aug. 13th, 2011|03:27 pm]
[Tags|, ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Fluid Line, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |sleepysleepy]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |A R Rahman & Sukhwinder Singh - Mann Chandre]

I've come to the end of my second week on a placement in anesthetics and intensive care. It's been really exciting for me so far, specially because I've just finished a six-month-long research project which involved very little clinical medicine, and it's refreshing to come back to it, albeit at the expense of my short summer break!

"GASP! I can't believe he's on a voluntary placement... that too in anesthetics!"

I'm technically attached to one of the consultant anesthetists in the hospital, but in reality I'm attached to the whole department which is made up of dozens of drug-peddling anesthetics doctors. I've been shadowing a different consultant each day. For my placement, I've been timetabled to spend time on the intenstive care wards as well as in the various operation theaters doing fancy anesthetisty things. When people find out that my placement is entirely voluntary (or self-inflicted - depends how you look at it), some give me a verbal pat on the back; others look at me as if I've just admitted to being a cannibal.
I was in theater with the anesthetists for a backbone operation, and was making small talk with the surgeon. It came out in conversation that contrary to his assumptions, I was doing this placement of my own free will. Somewhat cynically, he said "That's very keen of you. It's nice to know The System hasn't beaten it out of you... yet!"

The placement involves a good mix of revising my knowledge of various medical conditions (if I can be motivated enough to open a textbook), as well as practising hands-on skills like inserting cannulae, catheterization and airway management during general anesthesia. Some anesthetists let me do quite a lot by myself in the anesthesia induction room before an operation - stuff like bag and mask ventilation (which is not as easy as it looks!), inserting tubes of various descriptions down people's throats, and setting up fluid lines. Once the patient is anesthetized and ready for the operation, there isn't a lot for me to do, so the anesthetists quiz me on those vague bits of physiology and pharmacology that I was sure I'd never have to remember after exams.
Often, one of the anesthetists will slip out for a coffee or a lunch break if the operation is particularly long. Last Wednesday, when I was still new to the theaters I'm currently placed in, the anesthetist offered me a cuppa. Trying not too look too desperate for caffeine, I said "It's alright, I don't need one." She sensed that deep down inside, I very much did need one, so she gave me some very useful advice: As a medic, you should never turn down an opportunity to have a cup of tea, to sit down and to empty your bladder because you never know when you're next going to get a chance to do these things.

The other thing that I get to do sometimes is to attend to emergency calls in the hospital with the anesthetics registrar on call. These can range from a collapse mimicking a more serious problem to continuous seizures (status epilepticus) to actual brink-of-death cardiac arrests. The anesthetist in this situation tries to secure the patient's airway and make sure they're still breathing and their heart is still pumping. They often end up taking charge of the patient's care and I get involved where I can e.g. inserting a urinary catheter (the fun only starts when the pee starts going everywhere).
The first emergency call I attended was quite interesting. It was an old lady who was visibly unwell and quite breathless, despite the oxygen that was being given to her. There were at least 10 doctors of various grades and specialties, and three medical students standing around her, trying to work out what was wrong with her. Words like 'edema', 'tamponade' and 'nephrotic syndrome' were getting thrown around. A sticky, lubricated ultrasound probe was giving us a grainy view of her heart. The anesthetics registrar whom I was with tried to ask her what had been going on with her. Lifting her oxygen mask off her face with some difficulty, she said keeping a stiff upper lip, "Just a bit out of breath, doctor.."
She eventually got transferred to one of the intenstive care wards and I got told to follow her care through the intensive care department. When I went to check on her the next day, she had disappeared. I saw her again briefly when I was on a different ward for a different reason, but I never quite caught up with her story.

It's been a good learning experience so far. Anesthetics is starting to grow on me as a potential career option - even though I'm still very loyal to neurology/neuropsychiatry. It's definitely on my list of Cool Medical Specialties; obstetrics and gynecology, sadly did not make the cut.
LinkSuture me up!

"Most women would kill for your lips!" [Jul. 31st, 2011|01:08 am]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Wine, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Etti Ankri - Tol Omri]

Two weeks ago, not far from the deadline for my master's degree dissertation, my lips decided to have a little party.

It started as a harmless-looking spot of acne in the center of my bottom lip. It hurt all day but I didn't think much of it because I've had acne around my lips before. Pretty much overnight, the lip swelled up to twice its size, leaving me writhing in pain and unable to really focus on anything. I could feel a circular structure inside my lip knocking against my teeth every time I tried to talk or eat. The lip continued to balloon at an alarming speed and my resemblance to a primate also began to increase with it.

The sore lip and the dark rainclouds hovering over the city made Monday morning a real treat. I must have had on an unusually tired face because one of my workmates asked me if I was hung over. Eventually the pain (and the fear of the looming presentation that I had to do) got the better of me and I went to the chemist's to get some paracetamol and ibuprofen. On the way to the chemist's I passed a man with an amputated right arm - that really put things into perspective for me. I decided to quit complaining and get on with it (for the rest of the day anyway).

The swelling was decidedly there to stay, so I went to see the doctor. Their earliest appointment wasn't for another six days, so I made a fuss about it being an emergency. They booked me in with the nurse that afternoon. When I went to se the nurse, she seemed disoriented in time, place and person: she asked me what the date was twice during the consultation, which was enough of a push for me to disregard her diagnostic skills completely. Without so much as feeling the lip, she declared the swelling to be a (viral) cold sore and then proceeded to prescribe antibiotics in case it was a bacterial abscess (which it most likely was). She was just a bag of inaccuracies, that poor maid. She refused my pleas to get it lanced and drained because it wasn't 'ripe' enough according to her.

Back at the lab, my workmates sympathetically mocked my misery with comments like, "Most women would kill for lips like yours!" or "When are you getting your next (collagen) filling?" Once the antibiotics and the painkillers were in me, I was able to laugh with them. I maintained myself for the next few days on a steady diet of pills and potions (mostly the pills) so I could attend to the more important things in life, e.g. my dissertation. The abscess drifted in and out of consciousness, oozing pus every time something (usually my finger) woke the beast. Puckering up, which had never before been so satisfying, played a big role in squeezing the last droplets of pus (which looked suspiciously similar to my hair conditioner) out of the abscess's two mouths.

The abscess finally gave up the ghost last Monday. Its remains now lie buried deep inside my lower lip, and I'm not sure if there will be a Second Coming.

I handed my dissertation in on Thursday afternoon. Two Soft-bound Copies and an Electronic Copy, word-processed and double-spaced. At least 15 (Bonsai) trees will have died for all the copies of my dissertation that got printed. My journey with the dissertation was a bit like my experience with the lip abscess: a small, inconspicuous dot that was going to get very big and painful very quickly, and which would leave me with pure relief once it was gone.

I had finished writing my dissertation at least a week before I was supposed to hand it in. But then my idea of a finished dissertation was of a much, much lower standard than my supervisors. Mistakes were corrected, sections were removed, whole new were sections added and last minute analysis was done to convince ourselves that what I had written did actually make some vague sense. It still hasn't hit me that I have finished my dissertation (and with it, the project, which was part of the most challenging six months of my life) - or maybe I'm just in denial. The complete lack of work in the next few weeks should hopefully help me with that realization.

I'm really going to miss working in my lab. For six months, I felt like I was employed. I had a set of goals to accomplish, and I had helpful, friendly people watching over me to make sure I wasn't straying too far from the course. And of course, the continuous supply of coffee (and inventively designed fruit tea) - sometimes half a dozen in a day! - made it feel like a real job. I'm looking forward to going back to medicine and being on the assembly line to becoming a bog-standard doctor, it will just be difficult for me to cope with being told to be in a particular place at a particular time on pain of failing the year, by the medical school. I'll settle down eventually I suppose.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

Between the devil and the deep blue King [Jun. 7th, 2011|12:02 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Political Unrest, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |John Williams - Stolen Memories]

Reason #523342 why I don't want to work in the Gulf: Bahrain is criminalizing medics for doing their job.

Don't get me wrong, I'm totally in support of filthy rich, oil-washed oligarchies inhumanely killing their own subjects under the watchful eyes of their sympathetic neighbors, not to mention crushing said subjects' hopes of ever having a voice. That's just the way some people roll..

But was it really necessary to charge doctors and nurses with treason when they were only doing what they were trained to do - medically treat the injured, be they protesters or by-standers? Because of course, when you're faced with a shot wound or a mangled limb as a medic working in a busy trauma department, the first thing you should do is not check A-B-C or write a prescription for fluids and analgesia - ridiculous! No, you should check the patient's political inclinations before you check their pulse.

This whole thing is a travesty, a weak government trying to cover up for its inefficiencies by bullying the easiest targets. The Bahraini government is essentially prosecuting the poor medics for not defying medical ethics and for not placing loyalty to a king above their professional duties.

Someone needs to draw the line.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

Behind the scenes [May. 14th, 2011|01:30 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Rise&Shine, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Nitin Sawhney - Heer]

My diary for Saturday 7th May said one thing: '8AM - CONFERENCE!!'

The excitement that built up rapidly in the weeks leading up to The Conference took many shapes and forms, some of which were quite unproductive e.g. closing my eyes, rolling my fingers into a fist and letting out a silent scream for as long as the thought of The Conference persisted. When I wasn't doing that, I was wrestling with different spreadsheets, trying to put delegates into unpopular workshops, or trying to assign judges to posters and oral presentation while simultaneously e-mailing higher-ups i.e., the academic doctors whom we had asked to speak at The Conference or lead a workshop.

The week before The Conference itself was slightly manic. With some workshops' leaders cancelling and some delegates dropping out due to 'unforeseen circumstances', there was another round of putting people into different workshops. When the workshops were finally sorted (or so we thought), we e-mailed all the delegates their workshop allocations... and the next morning, another workshop got cancelled! C'est la vie...

'Bagstuffing' (the official term for filling plastic bags full of paper items and a pen for each delegate) was unnervingly left until the night before The Conference itself. Simultaneously as bags were getting stuffed, clipboards for the committee members and judges were being made, feedback forms and lists of posters and workshops were being printed en masse. Meanwhile, poster boards were being set up and signs to lecture theaters and toilets were being stuck on to walls using trusty blu-tack. One of the committee had brought cupcakes, which quickly disappeared. A few of us stole away to a lecture theater to practise chairing a session of oral presentations, but we were actually just (internally) jumping for joy at the prospect of being the Chair of a whole session.

And so arose the Day of the Conference on 7th May. Having ironed my favorite shirt the night before, I ironed it again that morning (just in case) before putting it on with a black tie and trousers. After trying various hairdos in front of the mirror, I abandoned all hope of having a good hair day and set off on my way to the Medical School. Some of the committee were already there, setting up shop.
I made myself useful where I could: barking orders, moving furniture, taking large swigs out of someone's cup of mocha (it certainly wasn't exclusively mine!) and waving my clipboard about in panic just for effect. The delegates started trickling in 10 minutes before we had expected them to. We must have managed to come across as organized because we didn't get any bad feedback about registration! Everyone got involved in registering the delegates, hunting for their name badges and giving them their (stuffed) bags.

The next few hours were quite stressful as I waited outside for speakers who only turned up 10 minutes before their talk was scheduled to begin (I had naively planned for them make an appearance at least 30 minutes before their talk - silly me!). I also shuffled judges into the board room for coffee and biscuits and shuffled speakers into the main lecture theater. Later I even chaired a whole session by myself! There were five presentations in my group and I got to say official-sounding things like 'Thank you for that very interesting presentation', 'Any questions?' and 'There is lunch outside.'
Lunch wasn't really lunch for me as I had to take a stroll with one of the senior judges, trying to pick the best poster out of forty-odd posters.
After lunch, things began to settle down a bit. I got to attend a few talks and (despite my history of verbal diarrhea) I was even allowed to talk to some important people and say goodbye to them with relatively posh wine.

The tiring day slowly turned into a semi-debaucherous night out on the lash in Newcastle - just to show the world that geeky academic medics can have fun too!

Now that The Conference is over, I'm suffering from withdrawal symptoms and life is a wee bit less exciting. One of the speakers wrote back, heart-warmingly telling us how the older generation of doctors and researchers can learn something from us. Being on The Conference's organizing committee was definitely one of the best experiences I've had and I'll cherish it more because of the incredibly talented, level-headed and determined people that I worked with.
LinkSuture me up!

Sitting, waiting, wishing... [Apr. 11th, 2011|10:30 pm]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |accomplishedaccomplished]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Paul Mauriat - Schindler's List]

On Friday, I finally had my first participant come through for testing for my study.

Research takes its own sweet time, as I'm learning the hard way. There isn't, as I previously thought, a conveyor belt bringing volunteers to participate in our study, to do our exhausting, montonous tests. No, they have to be phoned up and asked very nicely when they can come to the research center so you can schedule an appointment. Of course it's not just you who is doing the testing, so this appointment needs to be slotted into various other people's diaries. Laboratories and rooms need to be booked and balanced so you're not pissing everyone else off by hogging the facilities.
And when you have everything set for one participant, they call and cancel.

Last week, two participants - my first two participants - canceled their appointments. It was a true headdesk moment. Besides getting demoralized, I also had to reschedule them almost immediately to a different date, which involved running around the lab's office headless trying to juggle booking experiment rooms to get a time when the participant AND the experiment rooms would be free!

Fortunately one of them had rescheduled to the end of last week, so I was really excited on Friday afternoon as I got the experiment rooms set up for his arrival, printing out the consent form and all the score sheets in the order that I would use them. He was a bit late. As I sat watching the clock, I felt what many people starting out on a new venture feel: the never-ending wait for things to fall into place, the self-doubt and the frantic search for a shred of confidence in oneself, the wish for a successful first trial before your work becomes routine and second-nature.

In the end it all went well. Because our tests are so montonous and because he's a smart man, he got used to them pretty quickly (which may or may not be a bad thing!). I think we got good data. Ready for the next few now!
LinkSuture me up!

Freedom [Mar. 19th, 2011|12:35 am]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |accomplishedaccomplished]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Etti Ankri - K'she-zeh Noge'a]

A lot has been happening in the Middle East that I have many thoughts about.

The butterfly effect that a Tunisian street vendor started in a remote town by setting himself on fire has clearly demonstrated that the power of a very large group of people who won't budge, is a force not to be underestimated. I'm pleased that the Tunisians and Egyptians got what they wanted in the end, and I'm sort of pleased for the Libyans, Bahrainis and Yemenis who are still trying to fight it out, tooth and nail, for political reform.

But we must remember that what has been happening in the Middle East is not an entirely new phenomenon. The region seems to undergo spasms of nationalism every generation; indeed it was the last movement that installed into place some of the leaders who are now being overthrown by their people.

Especially in places like Libya, where public anger has spilled over into violence, blindly supporting the rebels may not be the most humanitarian thing to do. We don't know their background, they could easily be just as violent with pro-Gaddafi Libyans as Gaddafi's forces are with them.
And why have Western countries been so quick to help the Libyan rebels out anyway? Surely not to rid them of a calculative, brutal dictator - if that were the case, they should have intervened in Zimbabwe years ago where the dictatorship is unimaginably more restrictive. Libya has something that Zimbabwe never will - oil. Would be nice for our shattered economies if we secured an energy supply, won't it?

Bahrain is a whole different kettle of fish, though. A worried monarch who really has no basis for being the head of state brings in too-ready foreign forces to "rein in" peaceful protestors. I was ashamed that the UAE sent in forces to quash the protests. They shake their heads at Iran for violently quelling any anti-government protests, such as in 2009, but then participate in attacking another country's citizens for the very same reasons! It is unacceptable. The UAE ought to concentrate on simply maintaining its bling-bling image, and not tarnish it by sending in troops to attack fellow Arabs.
And where has the West been in all of this? There have been murmurs of protest from Western heads of state, but that's it. What's the matter? Can't go about telling your oil-producing friends to stop and do what the citizens want, can you? Actually, a good friend is one who points out your faults and mistakes to you, but the US et al are shying away from pressuring Bahrain's Sheikh into democracy, in order to remain socially acceptable to their Gulf Arab friends.

Despite all of this, we should be cautious in accepting whoever has been installed as the country's leader in those countries that have been successful in purging out the previous leader. There's no guarantee that the new leader won't get drunk with power too.
Link2 stitches Suture me up!

Red Red Marijuana [Feb. 3rd, 2011|11:54 pm]
[Tags|, , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Wine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |crazycrazy]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Zeb & Haniya - Bibi Sanam Janem]

I'm feeling rather political thanks to
a) bucketfuls of instant coffee, generously provided by my flask
b) a lecture about drugs, mental illness and the government

A few days ago I went to a public lecture by Professor David Nutt who is a psychiatrist (no conclusions shall be drawn from the combination of his name and his profession) and also researches psychoactive drugs, everything from alcohol to mushrooms. He was also recently fired from the committee of scientists that advises the UK government on drug policy, reason being that he gave a lecture - in his academic capacity as a researcher - about his work that declared alcohol to be more harmful than heroin and crack cocaine.

In the lecture I attended, he talked about various politicians' adamant refusal to take scientific evidence into account when designing and implementing policies on drug use. Having found that alcohol is THE most harmful commonly available drug in terms of its harms to the individual and to those around him/her, it follows logically that there should be heavier controls on the possession, sale and consumption of alcohol. Other drugs such as cannabis and psilocybin (magic 'shrooms) which have temporary - perhaps even beneficial - effects are controlled to death and their posession even for personal/medical use is disproportionately penalized.

The fact that people with mental illnesses often have a history of (mis?)using drugs leads people to believe that the drugs must have driven them mad which is why we should ban the drugs. But common illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar depression cannot be the result of drug misuse - they seem to start way before Average Joe experiences drugs; the mentally ill are possibly self-medicating with the (illegal) drugs to relieve themselves of the distress that their illness brings. Or as a lady in the audience put it, "They're taking these drugs to be out of their head because 'in' their head is not a great place to be."

Drugs like cannabis give people the same (or greater) feeling of being happy and carefree as alcohol does, the differences between them being that you can die of alcohol overdose, alcohol is more dangerous, yet legal (and cheerfully advertised). There is something almost perverse about resorting to drugs to feel happy, but hang on, alcoholics do it all the time! Even people who are not alcoholic look forward to a glass of wine or a bit of vodka on the weekend to lift their spirits . Why not then allow folks to do the same with cannabis?
There is the obvious fear that if you allow the general public access to cannabis or mushrooms, we'll have jobless druggies all over the place, damaging the economy and putting a bigger burden on the healthcare system. But will it really? Make it legal but expensive and restricted to cannabis cafés and that will stop most people from drugging themselves up all the time, in addition to stopping crimes related to drug-dealing.

There seems to be a plethora of reasons why alcohol should be banned/taxed more and cannabis should replace it but the lawmakers at the top are too rigid to change anything. Prof Nutt said half-jokingly that the government bans these drugs because they give us pleasure. I'm starting to believe he wasn't really joking.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

First day on the job [Jan. 22nd, 2011|12:44 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon I-need-some-Wine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |coldcold]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Mohit Chauhan - Abhi Kuchh Dinon Se]

"रुक जाना नहीँ तू कहीँ हार के, कांटोँ पे चलके मिलेंगे साएँ बहार के.."
"Don't give up yet, feeling broken-hearted; only after treading the path of thorns will you find the shades of spring.."
-- Majrooh Sultanpuri, from his song Ruk Jaana Nahi

Today was my first day of work at the research lab where I will be doing a study for the next six months.

I braved the -3°C bone-chill to walk to the lab, wearing a crisp, ironed shirt and (very lightly) polished shoes, among other things. When I got there, my ever-smiling supervisor showed me to my desk where I would spend the next seven or so hours. There was a computer, a chair and a phone. And lots of space.

The work was.. confusing. Before I begin the study, I have to sift through the methods and results of previous studies around my topic and decide what I want to measure/test in my subjects and how best to do it. I didn't know where to begin looking. My supervisor helpfully gave me a few papers which I decided to ignore for the time being. And then she gave me more papers. And more. I started looking through papers, not entirely sure what I was looking for. Despite having read around the topic before and despite having been to the lab before to observe, I didn't feel like I had a grasp of things; I didn't feel like I was in control. More than once, I doubted my own capability to do this project. But I can do it.

Before long, I decided it was time to get some coffee.

Someone forgot an 'a' there..

I must have downed at least two liters of boiled water with various concentrations of caffeine and sweetener stirred in. If I wasn't addicted to the stuff before now, my placement at this lab will definitely hammer the addiction into place. I did get some work done - I made a list! (It's what medical students do best). I even had a chat with my supervisor about a couple of theories about vision, just to look smart.

My supervisor and people on neighboring desks are really nice. Being a master's student, I'm quite possibly the lowest person in the pecking order, but no one makes me feel inferior (I do anyway!). It's great to be around people who are from different backgrounds but kind of working on the same thing as I am.

My desk is strategically located so neither the photocopier (God) nor the all-important kitchen (the temple) are too far away from me. When my eyes grow tired of staring at black and white text, I look up and see my reflection in the skylight. It's great for feeding my narcissism. Then a crane moves through my reflection; I snap out of it and go back to work.

Last night I had an odd dream. I dreamt I had fallen out of a plane or a space shuttle or something. I fell without a parachute, I could see myself falling towards Africa. It was dark, because I was falling at night, but I could see that I was falling into the forests of south-west Africa (if there are any forests there!). I was scared, thinking I was probably going to die in the forest, either by starving or getting eaten. And I really didn't want to die. So when I landed, uninjured (the trees cushioned my fall), I got up and walked straight out of the forest into a nearby town. I think my experience with this study in this lab is going to be similar - I might be confused and scared at first, and feel like I'm falling through a dark void.. but I will land, and I will get up and go out into the light.
LinkSuture me up!

Winter madness [Dec. 8th, 2010|10:43 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon ICE, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |creativecreative]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Ash King - Dil Gira Dafatan]

So Britain's having the earliest snowfall in nearly two decades. And possibly the worst one as well. My first winter in Newcastle was a bit misleading, I think, because it was pretty warm and snowless for the most part. And I considered myself brave for surviving it, thinking every winter was going to be just as mild as that one.
But the fun really began in January of this year, when I came back to Britain from a two-week holiday in balmy India - what a (white) shock that was! I thought I'd seen the worst then and the memory of the snowy weeks quickly faded... until about two weeks ago.
The snow started on the day before Thanksgiving (the American one, anyway). There was a '?' look on people's faces as they woke up to a thin blanket of snow that got thicker at an astonishing speed. At first, there was much singing and dancing in the streets, accompanied by the throwage of snowballs and the suspicious appearance of several creepy-looking snowmen in people's front gardens - in short, full advantage was being taken of the early snowfall. My housemates even built an igloo with snow bricks, at 3 AM. (And there it stands to this day). People told me how pretty they thought the snow was, and I would nod in response, resisting the urge to tell them to shut up.
But the novelty has now worn off. After having a couple of near-death experiences on the icy sidewalks and having my bike's lock ravaged by a combination of the snow, grit and cold, I can say that I'm fed up of the snow.

The reason I mentioned Thanksgiving before is not because we celebrate it here in Britain (we don't), but because a friend of mine decided to relive his childhood memories from America and had a Thanksgiving dinner with us, his coursemates. Along with the five-kilo turkey, he made enough food to feed a small country. I brought along my marinaded tandoori Quorn roast. We had a nice meal and then went outside for a barbaric snowball fight.

Earlier in the evening when we were going around the group, listing what we were thankful for, I said I was thankful for my mind. Not in the sense that I still haven't lost my mind (well I am thankful for that), but in the sense that I am thankful for my ability to see, hear, feel, smell, taste, move, think. This slightly peculiar reason for gratitude arose partially from what I've been learning in my neuroscience modules. The complexities, abilities and fragilities of the brain and mind continue to amaze me.
When people ask me if I want to be a neurosurgeon, I vigorously shake my head and say no, I can't hold a scalpel to save my life; I tell them I want to be a neurologist when I Grow Up. But recently, because of an essay I've had to write, I've been getting up close and personal with some aspects of schizophrenia. Psychiatry definitely seems like a good option now, as a specialty that I want to work in. Can I not combine the two and be a neuropsychiatrist?

In the last month, I have been elected the Events Co-ordinator of the Academic Medicine Society (AMS) at Newcastle, and Head Biscuit Buyer of the spanking new MedEd (Medical Education) society - obviously playing a pivotal role in that last one. AMS was formed in order to inject interest in academia into the medics at Newcastle. It's going well - I'm very excited about it - and the medical school is giving us encouragement in the form of inspirational speakers and sandwiches, which we have received with open arms (and mouths). The big challenge will be to organize a conference for medical students.. we have a great committee, so I'm sure we'll be able to do it.

Home in 9 days - it's slightly odd that I think about my cat more than I think about my folks. But I'm excited to see everyone again!
Link3 stitches Suture me up!

Warmongerer [Nov. 8th, 2010|01:52 am]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |angryangry]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Abida Parveen - Nigah-e-Darwaishaan]

This may not be news to most of you, but Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has come out as a bloodthirsty, manipulative warmongerer.

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with US vice-president Biden Image taken from

As the Yedi'ot article says, he's going to suggest to Joe Biden that the US government should threaten Iran with military action if it doesn't quit its nuclear program. Is Netanyahu on crack? The US government is still paying billions for the supremely pointless havoc that Bush and his idiot friends wreaked in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Netanyahu is dreaming of buying ringside tickets to a match between Iran and America?

And if as Netanyahu says, Iran is indeed setting a 'trap' for the world, then the Israeli government has been setting a trap for us since the 1950s with its is ambiguity about its nuclear capabilities (barring Ehud Olmert's slip-up in front of international media). Right now, Israel has the capability to make nuclear warheads (and probably already has a few stacked away in the Negev desert), not Iran. It is Israel's government, not Iran's, that is deceiving the world with claims of being open to peace while simultaneously discriminating against and subjugating millions of Palestinians, just for a bit of real estate.

Also note how Netanyahu plans to warn Biden to treat Iran's call to dialog 'with suspicion'. Why? Iran is an outcast nation that is trying to get back into the good books of the rest of the world through dialog but Netanyahu basically wants the West to raise its collective eyebrow at Iran and say no. Yes I know Iran's leaders are not the angel Gabriel's best mates, but surely we can give diplomacy a chance? Netanyahu doesn't think so. He wants to discourage any resolution through talks, because hey that might prevent ANOTHER war and then he'll lose his chance to see an archenemy bite the dust.

I think Israel's politicians are paranoid, to put it mildly. Everyone seems to them to be plotting against Israel. Everyone must be treated with suspicion. Like any person with paranoia, they feel the need to take disproportionate measures to defend themselves. Maybe my thoughts about the essay that I'm writing on schizophrenia are influencing my thoughts about Middle East politics, but the only way to make sense of Netanyahu's suggestions is to assume that he has a mental illness.

Netanyahu and his racist buddies have taken a baseball bat to Israel's already tarnished image. Israelis deserve better than this.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

101010 [Oct. 16th, 2010|12:34 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Twenty-Twine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |sleepysleepy]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Pronob Biswas & Antara Mitra - Ishq Barse (The Bombay Bounce)]

I turned 22 last Sunday.

My birthday celebrations really began on Saturday when my I got the bouquet of flowers that my parents sent for me. It was pretty big and I wasn't expecting it at all so it was a beautiful surprise.
Abhishek rang me about a half hour into my birthday, when I was still up around midnight, diligently reading about some vague neurophysiology. In the morning I spoke to almost my entire family on the phone, including the folks in India - it took a while!

Early (TOO early) on the cold, cold morning of my birthday, a couple of my housemates and I went to a car boot sale across the river in Gateshead. We were mainly looking for bicycles for ourselves, to add to the growing fleet of bikes in our living room. After looking around a bit, we finally found one that was in a reasonable condition and going for only £10. We hmmed and hawed over it for a bit and then decided that I'd stay with the bike while the other two went to look for other (better) bikes. So as I stayed with the bike, pretending to check it over several times over when the owner called out, "That one's sold!" I looked up and saw two guys (probably father and son) grinning at me triumphantly, the proud owners of this scrap bike.
Anyway I left it there and found my housemates. We found another bike, this one going for £15, but after one of us mildly haggled with the mean-looking owner, he agreed to £10. I checked it over once and basically pounced on it. A bike for a tenner! BARGAIN! I just need to get a lock for it and perhaps a helmet and then I'm all set to ride it to the moon and back.

As lunchtime approached and I had spent an eternity checking my birthday wishes on Facebook, I decided I should go to the gym. But my friends came over before I could leave. And they had brought cake. They'd melted the chocolate icing and it was in a puddle on the plate. Soon after cutting the cake and thanking them, my face got painted with the chocolate. It felt oddly nice. My skin tightened a bit, which I guess I need at my age!

Later in the evening, I hurriedly got dressed, spraying on a bit too much eau de toilette in the process, and rushed off to Nando's to book a table for 30 people. I got there just in time, cakes in hand, and the waiter found me a seating area for 30 people - which was around the number of people I was expecting to turn up. People trickled through, one by one. One of my housemates paid for my meal.. so sweet! There was a good mix of people there and the food was pretty good too. There was loads of cake left over to so I tried to give some away to strangers, with some success.

And because the date on my birthday was 10/10/10 and apparently 101010 in binary = 42, I decided to go kabbalistic and took what remained of the party to Bar 42. We had drinks there and then nearly got attacked by a drugged-up guy who was probably hallucinating. Obviously, we scrammed from there.

This week's been pretty busy in terms of work - lots of reading to do and I've managed to gather some more. I really have to push myself to not read the Wikipedia articles on the topics I'm supposed to look up even though the Wikipedia articles are so much simpler and concise albeit with some small flaws :) Plus it's really frustrating when a lecturer doesn't know what they're on about and when you try to look for scientific journal articles to get supposedly "the best information" on the subject, you find that the university doesn't subcribe to that particular journal. ARGH!
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Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad [Oct. 4th, 2010|12:30 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Neuroscience, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |busybusy]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Hemant Kumar - Yeh Raat Yeh Chandini]

I went to Birmingham the week before last to see Russell Peters' show live. We had started out from Newcastle at 5 AM, traveled at full speed in a bus and reached Birmingham at 10 AM, stopping in various cities on the way. This being the second time I've been to Birmingham, I thought it would be slightly easier to navigate around.. but alas, it wasn't.
Fast-forward to supper: we decided to meet up in Akbar's, which is a posh Desi restaurant (there are a few dotted around the country but not one in Newcastle!). Akbar's was chosen because one of our party wanted to have biryaani. Fair enough, but we got there at about 6 PM, without the tickets for the Russell Peters show which started at 8 PM. So basically, we pleaded with our waiter to bring the food as soon as possible, which he did, and we ate at a mad speed. Having paid the bill, we rushed back to town, from where three of us got a taxi back to the hotel, collected the tickets and rushed to the National Indoor Arena (NIA) where the show was being held. We made it there just as the doors opened.
Once inside, we discovered, to our dismay, how far away our seats were from the stage. Oh no! Russell Peters would never pick on us if we were sat a kilometer away from him! He wouldn't even hear us :( This disappointment was quickly overcome by a lightening of the mood by the opening act which was quite funny.

(Not a video from the Birmingham show)

Russell Peters was hilarious though! Well worth the money, I'd say. He didn't repeat any of his previous jokes, which I was worried he was going to do. Since a lot of his jokes are about South Asians and our culture, and since a third of Birmingham is Asian/British Asian, the crowd went bananas. He even made jokes about Dubai, at which point I was woo-hooing until I went hoarse. Good night, all in all.

Back in Newcastle, I've (finally) started my postgraduate course. There was a mad rush for choosing the modules you wanted, but everyone ended up with their top choices.. phew! I met up with a few of the students on Tuesday night for a pub quiz. We were tantalizingly close to winning those iPod shuffles, but because we weren't exact in one of our answers, we lost by a point. Grrrr! We went to another pub after that and chatted. People are really interesting and it's refreshing to meet graduates from outside Newcastle.
Other than that, it's just been induction lectures about how plagiarism is the work of the devil and must be shunned (OKAY we get it!) as well as receptions with chocolatey treats and wine for the students. Must say, they treat postgrad students a lot better! The actual classes should be interesting.. I'm meant to be doing nearly 700 hours of independent study over the semester but I laugh every time I think about how I'm going to procrastinate.

Looking for a job to fund my drinking habit (jokes.) but haven't been successful so far. Must keep trying I suppose.
Link3 stitches Suture me up!

Things I miss about Dubai [Sep. 18th, 2010|09:49 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Alpine, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |City 101.6 FM Dubai]

I've spent the rest of the summer doing very little. My time in Dubai was taken up by (in order of decreasing frequency)

  1. Watching sequences of episodes of Arrested Development - hilarious show!

  2. Treating Cleo the cat like my firstborn child

  3. Reading - about Bad Science, Shi'i Islam, and killing mockingbirds

  4. Late-night quests with Abeer for hot beverages - usually a dark chocolate mocha with a coffee bean on top à la Caribou Coffee - which were paid for, at least partially, with vouchers/coupons

  5. Diagnosing my family members who presented with various complaints

  6. Ranting with fellow secular Bohris about the greed and degeneration of the administrative mullas of the Dau'di Bohra community and wishing death upon said mullas

  7. Attending iftar "parties" to attempt communication in our appalling Gujuraati and then watch horrendous videos of a manic big-bosomed Pashtun woman and blood-curdling animations

  8. Buying/exchanging cheap clothes at Max and Splash

  9. Going on dates

You'll notice that 'clubbing' is not on the list (dammit Ramadan, must you coincide with my summer holidays?!) and neither is 'working out' (been a total slob for a month and a half!)

Newcastle feels colder than it should for this time of the year. Maybe I just got used to the heat in Dubai. I'm absolutely jobless for lack of, well, a job or any coursework and with nothing to do on a fine Saturday morning like this, I'm gonna go to town.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

Amazing Agra [Aug. 6th, 2010|06:42 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Dubai, Unexciting Arab Emirates]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Gladiator end theme]

We'd been scared stiff of the daily protests going on in Srinagar so we were advised to leave at an ungodly hour for the airport to fly to Delhi. Following this advice, we left our houseboat at 3.30 AM and sped through the city to get to the airport.
After hours of waiting outside the airport for the security workers to arrive, we finally got in and flew to Delhi. Soon after landing we got into a car and drove five hours to the city of Agra.

I don't quite know why but the name 'Agra' conjures up in my mind the image of a courtesan's ornamented feet with her ghaagra (skirt) flying slightly above them, possibly because of the association between the Mughal emperor Jahangir (who lived in Agra) and his dancing-girl girlfriend (see the Bollywood classic Mughal-e-Azam for more info).

The next day's agenda included the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. The Agra Fort is where the dynasty of Mughal emperors lived when they were in the Agra-Delhi area. It was a warm terra-cotta color with some of the inside made of white marble adorned with stones from all over the subcontinent. One could feel the Fort coming to life as the guide described the mundane events that went on in some parts of it. Unfortunately, most of the dazzling palace (including the legendary Sheesh Mahal [the Palace of Mirrors]) was occupied by the Indian military because when it was open to the public, some selfish bastards had been scratching the stones off the walls and pillars to keep as souvenirs. One of our party was convinced that some parts were closed off by the Indian government in order to hide their embarrassing helplessness over the shameless plundering of the Fort carried out by the British colonialists.

The Taj Mahal - there are just no words. I can use adjectives like majestic and sublime but they don't quite grasp the mad awe that overwhelms you when you see it in front of your very eyes. You'd simultaneously feel humbled by its milky beauty, and proud that the human race is capable of constructing this with their minds and hands. It was unbearably hot while we were there and that was the only thing that marred my experience, but looking back I think it was a small price to pay for seeing a human creation of such splendor.

Not much more touring was done in Agra because of the suffocating heat and I was ready to theatrically faint, but we got out in time. We went to a marble workshop where a man who claimed to be the descendant of the one of the Taj's original stonecutters showed us the marblework that has been carried on til date. This devout Muslim man seated us in his showroom and almost offered us whiskey, then showed us some tricks with lights and marble.

We went back to Delhi the next day, and visited the Qutub Minar (a TALL minaret + ruins of a medieval mosque) and the lotus-shaped Bahá'í House of Worship. The Bahá'í Faith is interesting - it's progressive and pretty open-minded which appeals to me, but it's still God-centered (not in a condescending way though) and worse, it's an organized religion. If hell freezes over and I decide to return to religion, the Bahá'í Faith will definitely be a choice.

Back in Dubai now, where everyone (else) is fasting and praying for a month.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

Stranded in Srinagar [Aug. 3rd, 2010|10:33 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Srinagar, J&K, India]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Edward Maya Ft.Alicia - Stereo love (Radio Edit)]

With only two days having passed since the agonizing waits to get into Gulmarg were ingrained into our frighteningly short memories, this time we were clever enough to leave the sleepy village at exactly 4 AM for a two-hour ride into Srinagar, the capital of the state.

Pediatrics came alive as we left Gulmarg when one of our party fell ill with a tummy bug and vomited all over the expensive rugs in the hotel room and I had to use all my diagnostic prowess to rule out other serious diagnoses that would require better quality medical care than I could provide.

Our drivers drove at a mad speed all the way to Srinagar because of the overhanging fear that protests would start quite early in the morning after fajr (pre-dawn) prayers, although it baffles me why anyone would destroy their sleep to patriotically throw stones at passing cars (or even to pray).
We reached the banks of the lake on which we'd be spending the next two days, the Nageen Lake. We were transported from one side to the other in a gondola-like boat called a shikaara. Instead of being ~ordinary~ and staying in hotel rooms, we had hired out houseboats - leviathan boats with rooms and most conveniences provided.

The front of the boat had a captivating view of the Nageen Lake and the neighboring mountains. The warm Kashmiri sun made the water gleam and the cloud-topped mountains radiate with a warm beauty. But the serenity of this scene belied the unholy violence that had overtaken the central bits of the city, and which was now being shown on telly.
We learnt half-empathetically from the news channel that eight people had died in protests on our first day in Srinagar. Everything from tourist spots to grocery stores were shut and the rabidity of the protests had driven most decent folk indoors, presumably making the economy fall face-down.
Sitting in the open bit of the houseboat, I could hear the calls coming from the local mosque on the other side of the lake.
"Naaray Takbeer" ("the call of greatness")
Followed by a chorus of "Allaho Akbar!" ("God is Great!").
And then a catchy melody echoed across, telling people why they should do jihaad. If, God forbid, I had any doubts about the dirty involvement of organized religions like Islam in stirring up shit, this experience has dispelled all of them.

The reason why I've included this political rant in this description of my holiday in Srinagar is because with nothing else to do, political discussions dominated our dinner-table chit-chat and a sense of being stranded pervaded all our limited activities over the two days.

We did go on a long shikaara ride from our houseboat, through the lotus and water lily 'garden', winding through villages of bored yet active children and their parents and pet farm animals, and finally to the other lake, the Dal Lake. I rowed our shikaara for a bit on the way back.

The abject poverty, rampant unemployment and rapid dwindling in tourist numbers had forced many of the souvenir and goods traders to come very close to begging their customers to buy something off them. Their despair was obvious without being expressed verbally, and you felt a subconscious need to buy something off them. I bought a few souvenirs and a fine bedsheet off various tradesmen but had to turn a lot of them down (e.g. Mr Bulbul Flowerman, whose flowery services we did not require).

I simply regret coming to Srinagar at the wrong time of the year.. we could've seen so much more of it had it been politically calmer. Maybe it's a sign to say I should come back to see what I missed this time around.
Link2 stitches Suture me up!

Near death experience in Gulmarg [Aug. 1st, 2010|11:08 pm]
[Tags|, , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Gulmarg, J&K, India]
[מרגיש · Feeling |relievedrelieved]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Tochi Raina - Gal Mitthi Mitthi]

We left Pahalgam at 8 AM, which was four hours too late. We were advised by our drivers to leave at 4 AM in order to avoid the stone-pelting mobs of village folk on the way to Gulmarg, our next destination. We learnt our lesson when we were stopped on the road a couple of times by people telling us that there were indeed mobs blockading the road ahead, waiting with stones in hand. Each time we had to wait for what seemed like ages until either the mob cleared off for Friday prayers or the police escorted us through the village. Once we tried to speed through a village with the mobs still in situ and our car was promptly lashed by village boys wielding incredibly un-frightening branches of trees; needless to say, we had to turn around and wait a while before we could go any further.

The political unrest started nearly two months ago in Kashmir with the death of a teenager at the hands of the police force (who are one of the faces of the ~despised~ Indian government in this heavenly Himalayan state). Since then, tens of people have died mostly due to firing on protesting crowds.
The resulting indsicriminate public fury against government employees and tourists alike has taken the form of even more strikes and protests. Coupled with the knee-jerk daytime curfews enforced by the Indian military, pretty much everything has shut down, the obvious exceptions in this small village being hotels and self-employed horse-owners.

So with that close ~brush with death~ still fresh in our minds, we arrived in beautiful Gulmarg, 'the meadow of roses'. The place didn't do the name any justice to be honest because you'd be hardpressed to find roses growing outside the hotel's gardens.
Gulmarg in the sunlight is, however, one of the most beautiful places I've seen. Little hills carpeted with grass, home to conifers (and an impressive variety of insects) with streams running between them, and the mountains towering high above in all directions.
New day, new horse - not as well-trained as one in Pahalgam though. This one was white too but was paradoxically called Ginger. I don't think the owner knew what 'ginger' means. We rode a few kilometers from the hotel where the view was spectacular.

The next day our earnest desires to ride a cable car to the top of one of the mountains were met with blank looks and the information that the cable car operators were stuck in their nearby hometowns because of the human roadblocks on the roads leading into Gulmarg.
So with nothing to do for a whole day, we dejectedly made our way back to the hotel where we were accosted by a few more horse-owners who promised to take us to the same height on horseback in 35 minutes as the cable cars do in about the same time. The horses were beautiful young things (some were, anyway) of pleasant colors and possessing long legs. It took a lot of convincing to finally get a few of us to agree to go with them.
The treacherous path up the mountain obviously took longer than 35 minutes, a fact that I'd been loudly broadcasting all along. The way up got progressively more beautiful and I turned around several times to gaze at the sunlit green valley rising up behind us.

The view from the where we finally stopped was breathtaking. I could see far away towns and lakes glimmering in the afternoon sun. I almost didn't want to leave but I decided it wouldn't be in my best interest to live in a hut with a seventy-something-year-old shepherd and the carcasses of the dead members of his flock, so I got on my faithful steed and quietly rode downhill.
LinkSuture me up!

Pahalgam [Jul. 30th, 2010|09:49 pm]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Pahalgam, Jammu & Kashmir, India]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Mohit Chauhan - Mann Lafanga]

It feels oddly good to be disconnected from the world, even if it's only for a few days. As I write this, I'm sat in our hotel room in a little village in Kashmir called Pahalgam (Peh-hel-gaam).

The last few days have flown by. I met my folks in Dubai Airport and we flew together to Delhi. In Delhi we went around a few tourist spots like the Rashtrapati Bhavan (India's answer to the White House) and India Gate.
I met a friend from university in Delhi and we went out for dinner. It was one of the best meals of my life.. Delhi has such amazing food!

From Delhi we went to Srinagar (the capital of the disputed Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir) and from Srinagar straight to Pahalgam by road. Despite the minor scare from having politically frustrated kids successfully attack our car with stones, it was a breathtaking journey.

Pahalgam is beautiful. I feel a strange sense of pride when I see the jawaans (soldiers) of the Indian army dotted around Pahalgam and its outskirts, but then I realize that a military presence isn't entirely desirable in "Paradise on Earth", so I have to suppress that pride.

Having had hours of undeserved sleep the first day there, we did just the opposite the next day. At the risk of annoying the PETA activists in Kashmir (the both of them), I must admit that I rode a horse. Up a hill. And pulled on its reins too. It was not as smooth as I'd thought, certainly not as easy as they made it look.
My horse was a young white Kashmiri stallion pony called Raja which means 'King' in Hindi/Urdu. But he was hardly royal what with a limp and a sinfully frequent bowel habit. I grew fond of him nonetheless and I like to think he enjoyed my intermittent patting of his neck. He walked ahead of the others at a brisk pace much to the chagrin of my cousins who wanted their own horses to go faster, faster, faster!
After treading the part-paved, part-stony uphill path, we finally reached a plain between the surrounding hills. Having petted various domesticated creatures in exchange for money, we explored the rest of the plain, climbing trees and washing our feet in the nearby stream.

Soon after the bum-destroying descent from the mountain, we headed to a point outside of Pahalgam where the river was whooshing along at an angry velocity. The river was nothing special to see, just lots of ice-cold brown water. There were a few people there however, who were willing to row us briefly through the rapids in their rafts, again, in exchange for money. It was an adventurous ten minutes as the river rocked the raft up and down and the cold water soaked us through and through (wrong day to wear denim!).

The hotel and its surroundings are eerily quiet at night. I'm not used to this, certainly not after a year of living within earshot of the Newcastle General Hospital's blaring ambulances.
LinkSuture me up!

Passing by [Jul. 26th, 2010|10:57 pm]
[Tags|, , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Sleepless Dubai, United Arab Humidities]
[מרגיש · Feeling |cheerfulmanic]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Abida Parveen - Ramooz-e-Ishq]

Incompetent! Useless! Dawdlers!
Just a bit of flattery for the medical school, in case you're wondering. (You can tell this is gonna be a rant!).
We finished exams last Tuesday and were promised results on the Monday after (i.e. yesterday). All our exams being either multiple-choice or practical, they are marked through one of those fancy machines that detects pencil marks on paper (OMR? OCR? which is it?). So having finished on Tuesday, one struggles to understand what the hell is taking the medical school four working days to process the sheets (especially since a machine is doing all the work!) and give us the final marks and finally let us off the hook so we can go on holiday after that woefully long year. Why couldn't they just give it to us the next day like they did for the graduating class of medics? Bureaucracy? Sheer inefficiency? Cruel intentions to keep us in Newcastle for as long as possible? A special gift-wrapped combo of the three? Who knows!

But that's not even the whole story. So I'd carefully booked my holiday with my family, electing to wait a few precious days until Results Day, spending them hiding in my room so that I could be in Newcastle when the results came out on Monday morning and if, Allah forbid, I fail, I could go to the med school and get sorted out.

So come Monday, I was on my computer first thing in the morning and logged into our medical school's website, clicking refresh every 20 seconds like a trained dog (I almost panted too, just for effect). No change. No results uploaded. No news of pass or fail. Grrr..
I rang the med school to ask when the results will be uploaded. "Happast three" the girl chirped back. Half-past three. What! I was foaming at the mouth by now..

See, I was meant to fly out of Newcastle at 1.30 PM and I just couldn't wait 'til bloody 3.30 just to know if I've passed or not. I had a mini panic attack and made a judgment call - in all probability I have passed and I don't need to ruin my family's holiday plans by staying back an extra day. So the best option is to fly out anyway and check the results when I land (only if the resiliently slow folks in the med school have uploaded the results by then!)

(I'm writing this in the uncomfortably well-air conditioned bowels of a Boeing-777 which I made it into by frantically checking in online on my mobile whilst waiting in the stupendously long check-in queue at Newcastle Airport. I have been treated to all sorts of goodies on this flight e.g. mango-coconut-chocolate creme, well-cooked rice, the agitating odor gushing forth from the diaper of the 2-year-old sat next to me etc.)
(The girl on my right is a dental student at Newcastle... what are the chances! We chatted about our courses and mutual acquaintances. I stole some orange juice off the trolley for her. She grabbed hold of my oh-so-manly arm while watching Shutter Island.)
(This just in: some fool was caught smoking in the toilet on the plane and will have "further action taken" against them when we land in an hour or so. I might stick around and watch the excitement unfold.)

Landed in humid Dubai nearly two hours ago. Waiting patiently for my connecting flight inside this leviathan glass building, laptop comfortably sat on lap, sapping power from the nearby socket. I fumbled around with the airport Wi-Fi for a while before getting through. Speedily logged in to my medical school's website to download the pass list and exam marks. Just to take the comedy further, the pass list document was corrupted so it wouldn't open in MS Word. Jesus Christ!! So had to take the long way around and e-mail it to myself and it magically opened in Google Documents (three cheers!). And and and.. my name.. was.. on the pass list! DAUD, Daniyal. I have "satisfied the examiners, and may proceed". I'll leave it to your filthy mind to imagine precisely how I satisfied them.

Speaking of last Tuesday when we finished our last exam, there was a very palpable air of accomplishment among the 3rd year medics. A group of us braved the torrential rain (which seemed to fall as soon as we'd finished exams, the skies having been remarkably clear beforehand) to go to a swanky bar in Jesmond to start the process of drinking away all the memories of the exams. From there we moved to a house party to which we'd vowed to go only "to show our faces". But the liters of alcohol at the party kept most of us there for the best part of the night.

As I got progressively twattered, I wandered up and down the stairs in the house, dejectedly looking for my friends. Bumping into coursemates, I offered to lift them up for a few seconds at the expense of my fragile femurs which, praise the Lord God, have survived unbroken. I also did some shameful things by declaring to a few of my attractive male friends my undying love for them. Some laughed it off, some egged me on, others are in the process of filing sexual harassment lawsuits against me.

This song is beautiful.
It feels odd to be in Dubai and not go home; I'm only passing by. Looking forward to seeing my family in a few hours. Looking forward to the holiday now.
Link1 stitch Suture me up!

I'm never gonna dance again... [May. 3rd, 2010|11:32 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Dance, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |naughtynaughty]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Yanni - Quiet Men]

On Friday, I got my life back.

We had our dance performance for the International Festival of Arts and Music show that the university's students' union holds every year for charity. Not many people go to it, because it's not very well publicized and is usually held in a hired theater/auditorium that is hidden in the armpit of the city center, because our university can't be bothered to build an auditorium for us. But it's a pretty nifty event and packed with culture which is why it's such a shame that people don't come to it unless really pushed to.
It was pouring down on Friday evening as I struggled to get all of Desi Society's nine performers together for a rehearsal or two before the actual show. The CD with the music that I'd given to the sound guy tripped a couple of times which made my heart skip a few beats because the set of writable CDs that I currently have are notorious for garbling up music and getting stuck at a time of their pleasing; I was really hoping that this one wouldn't embarrass me (us) by doing that.
Working out the lights with the girl who did the lights for our performance was like negotiating a peace deal. Only certain bits of the stage could be lit up and they weren't the ones that we wanted.. so we settled for an all out colored lights theme.
In the changing room, we used both hands to stuff our faces full of junk food. Then we went down to watch the Indonesian Society's skit/dance, which was beautiful and really well-coordinated. I was slightly jealous.
When we finally went on, each of our dances received cheers. No one screwed up massively - they shouldn't have, after three months of practice! Someone in the audience (I know who) shouted 'Go Danny!' which helped my popularity in university ever so slightly. When we were hurriedly molting out of our street clothes from the Soulja Boy performance to put on our traditional clothes for Kangna and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, we heard the audience applauding Chandrima's awesome solo classical dance.
And in 15 minutes, it was over. This year's IFAM had been emotional for me, solely because the nine of us were so tight and became really good friends over the course of our practices and rehearsals.

A day before that, on Thursday, we had performed at Desi Soc's very own charity dinner and dance. Yes, I was pimping our performance as much as I could - hey it was all for charity! There was a slightly larger audience at this event and we were the last act for the night, having been preceded by the Irish Dance society and a few (really funny) comedians. Everyone loved our performance, even though our choreographer Mansi later told us in her adorable Chicago accent that our alignment was completely off.
I hadn't done very much to organize the event, which is probably why it turned out so good! The committee had got a few casino game (complete with a dealer!), a wheel of fortune, a henna artist and lots of prizes for a raffle. We did quite well, given the venue and ticket prices and managed to raise quite a lot for the charity Save the Children.

A day before THAT, we (as in, our dance group) had our last dance practice. It wasn't supposed to be anything special, but Mansi, one of the choreographers, had got cake and wine. Very little rehearsing went on, and we ended up dancing to random old Asian tunes off Youtube all the while sipping classy white wine and gobbling cake; it was really quite debaucherous. It was the BEST practice session we'd had this time around! I'm gutted that half of this awesome group won't even be around next year.

Medicine has been going alright. This week is the last week of the Destruction of the Medical Student's Soul rotation, also known as CIDR. The medical education department must really hate medical students to subject us to such an agonizing eight weeks. Third year being a clinical year, you'd think they'd concentrate on teaching us medicine after having satisfactorily roasted us in the fire of sociology in 1st and 2nd year. But some bright spark came up with the idea that medical students would benefit more by listening to talks by physiotherapists, nurses, dietitians and other members of the "multi-disciplinary team" and talking about patients' social problems, than they would by being on the ward and learning to manage patients with different conditions there. And thus, CIDR was born. The feedback form will have some strongly worded comments on it, but will it really change anything?
We did some neurology a couple of weeks ago and that was interesting. I learnt quite a few new things, mostly about multiple sclerosis. One of the neurologists picked up on the fact that I wanted to be a neurologist without me having to advertise it using a billboard.. and that made me really happy. I ought to stop being such a loser, but what to do, I can't help it!
LinkSuture me up!

Goodbyes [Apr. 18th, 2010|04:54 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Whine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |pensivepensive]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Junaid Jamshed - Na Tu Aayegi]

On my last Thursday in Dubai, the whole lot of us went to my Abeer's university, the American University of Sharjah (AUS) for their Global Day show. It's similar to the IFAM that I'm performing in except it was 100x bigger, better, more glamorous because the folk organizing it actually do care about how it looks.. which is more than what can be said for the people organizing ours who can't get anything done on time, to put it politely.
The Indian Cultural Club's performance (which had Abeer in it) was fantastic. They'd done everything so well. I was slightly jealous.
Each cultural club in AUS's Global Day had their own stall which they set up and decorated. The Indian stall was really good, they had gannay ka rass (sugarcane juice) and a rickshaw too hah! I met a friend from school and we went for a stroll around the stalls. We got some kunafah כנפה كنافة from the Palestinian stall - I took one look at the amount of cheese on it and decided that I wouldn't have anything else for supper. Sweet stuff.

Compare that to the IFAM that Newcastle University's Students' Union hold every year. Newcastle University boasts a population of 22 000 students and counts among its societies the Dance Society, Irish Dance Society, Desi Society, Tango Society, Latin Ballroom Dance society and other societies that put together performances, yet it still DOESN'T have an auditorium with a stage! Instead we have to faff about every year trying to find a hall or theater to hold our annual IFAM in. It's pathetic.
There are no stalls or anything, partly because there's not a lot of people in the societies who are willing to help set up something like this. People just don't seem enthusiastic enough here. It's a real shame because we could very easily make this an event open to the public (like AUS's Global Day) because there's not a lot of culturally diverse things that go on in this sleepy riverside town.

My flight back to Newcastle was meant to be on Sunday morning. My parents drove me to the airport. The staff shuffled me about before telling me to go to a different desk. There was a family of four trying to check in at the desk. There seemed to be a problem. After a lot of excited hand gestures and hushed scolding, the mum of the family turned around, gave me an exasperated look and told me that the flight was overbooked. I looked at her in horror. I HAD to be in Newcastle by that night in order to make it to the hospital on Monday morning.
I was starting to get paranoid (as usual) when I was called up to the desk. The clerk calmly explained to me that the flight was overbooked (like most flights are) and that they had lots of passengers in transit who wanted to fly out. It was a 'Ve-What-Ve!' moment for me. I tried to argue that I was a "student doctor" and that I needed to be at my hospital the next day etc. They bribed me with a hotel stay (in my hometown! Smart!) and a free ticket for the future. Soon after I'd relented, I overheard them giving the last two seats to an old English couple.. does this count as institutional racism?
I dropped my stuff off in the hotel (which was really swish) and went home but not before I'd had two of the three free meals that they'd given me. Everyone was really surprised to see me.. we had bid our not-so-tearful goodbyes the previous night so they did a double take when they saw me. I spent the rest of the day at home, playing with the cat family and going for a walk.

Back in Newcastle, I returned to medicine the next day. We were doing Pain and Palliative Care as part of the rotation. Instead of seeing usual patients with typical symptoms and obvious signs being treated by rushing doctors and overworked nurses, we were taken to see some patients nearing the end of their lives. While my friends all spoke to patients in their 70s or 80s, I had a chat with a lady in her late 40s.
Without going into too much detail, this lady's cancer had spread. I wasn't too sure how long she had left (and I didn't want to ask her for obvious reasons). She didn't have the 'why me, why now' attitude (anymore?) and she seemed to have made her peace with the fact that this was it for her. It broke my heart when she told me she was a single mum with two young children. It emerged in our conversation how dedicated she was to her children. She had spent nearly seven years raising the kids by herself. She told me she wanted to live on for another four years, until her older son turned 18 so she could pass on the house to him. Unlike most people she didn't want to die at home because she didn't want the memory of her death to linger in the house that she wanted her sons to have. She also wanted to get embalmed because that would mean she could have an open-casket funeral so her sons could see her in the coffin and get convinced that she had died or else they would have a hard time getting over her death.
Such immense love for one's children! I mean, only a mother can know how the mind of her child works, only a mother can know the thoughts of her child before they even occur to the child. It was an overwhelming death-flavored experience for me and despite them telling us to keep a professional distance from patients, this lady's story really tugged at my heartstrings.
LinkSuture me up!

מיים [Apr. 8th, 2010|10:08 am]
[Tags|, , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Dive-bai, UAE]
[מרגיש · Feeling |contemplativecontemplative]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Edward Maya Ft.Alicia - Stereo love (Radio Edit)]

My second week here has been pretty intense.

On Friday, my aunty and I went to Al Boom Diving Centre to sign me and two of my cousins up for a four-day course in open-water scuba diving, at the end of which I'd get a licence to dive wherever I wanted down to the depth of 18 meters (albeit in the company of a 'buddy'). Now, I'd been under the impression that it was going to be a chilled-out four days with a few teaching sessions in the water after which we'd get the license... but as soon as we'd agreed to register, one of the instructors brought out three copies of a surreally thick textbook on diving which we had to read AND understand(!) in the space of two days so we could sit the quizzes and the final exam.

So basically I spent the next three days swotting up everything there is to know about diving, including all the medical problems that can arise from it (that was my favorite bit of the textbook, obviously!). I don't think I've ever studied one subject so constantly, even for an exam at university! Character-building stuff, you know. At the end of it though, I was pleased that I'd given up my life to study diving for three days because I passed all the quizzes and exams in the first try.

The confined-water dives (i.e., in the pool) were quite funny. We had different instructors on different days but the wretched Irishman who was doing our first session got really frustrated with my cousins and me really quickly, because we didn't catch on as easily as the others did and it looked like we were just taking the piss (even though I wasn't... promise!). The wetsuits were a joke, because we had so much trouble getting into them - they're awkward at best, maliciously tight at worst.

The one session I had in the open water on Jumeirah Beach was exhilirating, despite the wetsuit, despite the salty water in my mouth, despite the fact that I couldn't swim nearer to the bottom, despite getting poked by a sharp black urchinny thing, despite my ears hurting from unequalized pressure. You know the aqua blue-green color you always see in those photos of a heavenly beach somewhere in the Pacific? That's what it was like under the water in Jumeirah. Sat on the bottom were a few fish, some coral, but mostly sand. When I looked up from the bottom, all I saw was the bright Dubai sun shining through water. Memorable times.

It was even more memorable because I lost nearly all hearing in my left ear a couple of hours after we'd got out of the sea. Upon inserting a bit of rolled up tissue paper in said ear (against the passionately delivered advice of the ENT surgeon who taught us to resist the temptation to insert things into our ears), I got a lot of fresh wax. That evening, I was sat in an ENT clinic wondering how I'd got into this mess as the doctor flushed my ears with cold water that made me dizzy but got all the wax out.. and my hearing was restored, like magic!
Then he told me, very unmagically, that I shouldn't go diving for two weeks or I'd pop my eardrum. To complete the course, I had to go diving the next day (i.e. yesterday) in Fujairah, which is on the east coast.. and apparently you see lots of cool things underwater there, coz it's the Indian Ocean, not some measly gulf. And because I'm leaving the country in a few days, I can't simply finish the course two weeks later. So basically, I have to put off doing the final dive of the course until the next time I'm in Dubai, all because my stupid ceruminous glands threw a tantrum in reaction to some salt water/plankton. Grrrr!

In other news, one of the kittens from Cleo's litter died a few days after birth. Four of them were joined by their umbilical cord and probably couldn't feed properly. However, they're all separated now and the four that are left have grown to the size of giant mice.

I'm really not very excited about going back to Newcastle, as usual. I know summer's a-coming and it's going to get really beautiful like England does every year, but even so.. I would've liked to stay just for a wee bit longer.
LinkSuture me up!

Village doctor [Mar. 30th, 2010|10:57 am]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Du-buy, United Arab Kittens]
[מרגיש · Feeling |rejuvenatedrejuvenated]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Khaled - Aicha]

I've got a couple of weeks off for Easter, so I came home on Monday. The week leading up to my departure from Newcastle was unbearably long. The days went really slowly. My folks gave me a little fright on Wednesday, when they told me my visa hadn't been sorted and I'd probably have to delay my departure which meant I'd get fewer days at home. I was already in two minds about going home just for two weeks, so this made me think of calling off my trip altogether. A few hours later though, Papa e-mailed me to say my visa had been sorted.. and things went ahead as planned.

The flight departed nearly 90 minutes after it was supposed to, which left me grinding my teeth. When we were approaching Dubai, the pilot wanked us around for another 40 minutes or so, just flying around in circles before landing because the air traffic controllers wouldn't give him the signal to land. Stupid, stupid!
It was the first time I'd been in the spanking new Terminal 3 of Dubai's airport. Pretty swish. An astronomical distance to walk to passport control and baggage reclaim, though. And the queue at passport control took forever because they didn't have enough people working there even though the entire world and their dog had landed in Dubai within the space of an hour.
Ammi, Papa and Abeer had come to pick me up. When I finally got out, I ran to meet them. Hadn't seen my parents in over six months.. gave Ammi the tightest hug ever.

Back at home, a few things have changed (e.g. my brother's sharing a room with me again; one of my uncles has moved into a house on our street; we now have a pet cat etc.). I spent my first day eating, sleeping and catching up with my aunty.

The pet cat is of a Persian breed, is more apathetic and unresponsive than a tree and grows fur by the ton. She first appeared at our front door six months ago and since my folks couldn't find her original owner, she became our pet. In a temporary fit of Egyptology, my sister named her Cleo(patra). When I tried to cuddle her last night, I got scratched on the foot and promptly cleaned it with dettol, having been appropriately warned about horrible cat-borne diseases in my Infectious Diseases rotation.
Then we had a little surprise this morning. Now, Cleo usually leaves the house at night to sleep in the backyard and we let her back in mid-morning. She hadn't come in today so I went out to look for her. She was nowhere to be seen, but there was some awkward mewing coming from the western wall of the yard. Walking towards the mewing, I saw Cleo sat under a plant nursing a litter of four kittens and another one that was crying with all its little strength. Five kittens! Poor thing had been pregnant all along and we didn't even have a clue (wait, that's a lie... apparently my sister had had a feeling that she was pregnant and my nine-year-old cousin had suggested getting them aborted... but nothing much was done after that).
So I've been practising basic obs and gyne on the cat. Haven't done a pelvic exam just yet for fear of getting mauled again. Tried to get the blood cleaned off her. I wonder if she's pushed the afterbirth out.. The kittens have been squealing bloody murder since I saw them except for the brief period that they were asleep. Can't wait for them to open their eyes!

Apart from that, I've been asked to look at lumps and bumps on my family members' persons. I'm expected to be a feline obstetrician/pediatrican, a dermatologist and a general surgeon. Oh wait, I'm only a third year medic who actually DOESN'T know that much medicine, let alone veterinary science. Yalla, graduation!
LinkSuture me up!

Lucky face [Feb. 12th, 2010|09:30 pm]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Lime, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |satisfiedsatisfied]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |David Broza - Sigaliyot]

Its been a stressful three weeks since I last wrote.

I was a bit bummed out about the end of my mental health rotation two weeks ago. It had been a good one, with lots of interesting patients. I had really gotten to like our tutor, he's such a funny guy and his teaching is half decent too. For each rotation we have some sort of a formal assessment and for mental health, I basically had a chat with one of the psychiatrists about a patient and he then proceeded to (gently) grill me about my schizophrenic patient and all sorts of vaguely related things (e.g. "Name the three dopaminergic pathways in the brain" I mean, WTF!!). I did pretty well in the assessment but my mate Dan did slightly better and I'm still grinding my teeth over that.
One of the patients I had spoken to during the rotation had summed up mental health for me nicely: "Daniel," he said to me, "mental illness, any mental illness is like the mind screaming". I think that sort of demonstrates the psychological pain that mental illnesses can cause.

Meanwhile, we (Desi Society) started practising our dance routines (quite late) for the International Festival of Arts and Music (IFAM) this year. We're doing a good mix of classical Indian, Bollywood, bhangra and hip-hop this year, although for some reason people have started backing out of it. Those of us doing at are putting in quite a bit of effort into it (practising like 4 hours a week) and it seems to be more or less on track. I'm unreasonably happy/enthusiastic about the bhangra number because I've learnt all the steps in like 2 weeks which is an epic achievement both for me and our brilliant imported-from-Amreeka choreographer/student/filthy monkey.
I'm pretty excited about it because the choreography is great and we're going to do a brilliant job.

The new rotation, public health, was a bit of a bore. It was just lectures in a closed room and some project work. Oh and a senseless little essay to write. It was a slight drag and to be honest I would've preferred to have some hands-on experience with a public health consultant or something. Our project was good though, it was about domestic violence and we spoke to some women who'd been abused in their homes. One lady described being kicked in the tummy when she was pregnant. I was surprised by how inhumanely some husbands treat their wives.
Public health is over & done with though. Hopefully my essay will have made enough sense to let me pass this rotation safely.

While public health was nibbling on my life, we had the Desi Society's second gig last Tuesday. The theme was More Chocolate and Champagne, after last year's successful gig. After some minor snafus, we spent countless evenings (ok, about 3 or 4) putting up posters and flyering in places. Everyone was pretty sick of the sight of the flyers by the end of it! Since I have a few friends (surprsing, I know!), I sold a few tickets.

On Monday, the day before the gig, I had to meet a friend in town to give him a few tickets. I was waiting for him by the war memorial monument in town when I was approached by an uncertain-looking Sikh dude. "You have a very lucky face" he told me hestitantly.
"You have a lucky face. But you don't get chances in life. But in three days you will have big opportunities."
Magical, I thought. Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye!
"आप है कौन?" I asked in Hindi. Who are you?
He was taken aback a little that I spoke to him in Hindi and pretended like he didn't know what I was saying. He tried to pick his conversation up from there but I held my hand up, said "I don't have the time" and went the other way. I wonder what he wanted.

On the afternoon before the gig I went out to buy strawberries to use as dips for the chocolate fountain. I got like a carton of them. Then in the evening, I made my housemate chop all of them up in exchange for a few bites (of strawberries, of course).
The gig itself went down pretty well. With a new, bigger location, people had a bit more room to sit/drink/dance. I had a good time, except for when someone made me down a glass of champagne.

In other news, I'm currently in love with the song Rehna Tu by A R Rahman from the film Delhi-6. Such a sweet, breezy expression of love with a slightly gay twist to it.

It's been a stressful three weeks since I last wrote. I'm pleased some of the stress has gone.
LinkSuture me up!

Sno man [Jan. 7th, 2010|09:27 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Whine, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Etti Ankri - Shir]

I'm back in Newcastle now. It's horrible and cold here. Maybe not entirely horrible, but it definitely is cold.

The memories from Nagpur, although less than a week old, seem like they belong to last night's dream.

New Year's Eve in Nagpur was a bit of an embarrassment for me and is best forgotten. Basically, I ditched my cousins to go Gondwana Club with some friends. We played Bingo there which I narrowly lost. My straight male friends tried to introduce me to one of their not so straight male friend.. it's touching how accepting these guys are. I mean not only were they aware that there were two gay guys in the club (perhaps more?), but they also wanted to set us up. It was so touching, in fact, that I flirted with one of the straight guys instead. Oops.
The rest of the night saw me throwing up in various places (one of them being on the dinner plates) and saying extremely rude things to strangers, most of whom were guys my age. Honestly, when it all came back to me the next morning, I was (and still am) thoroughly disgusted with myself for saying stupid things. At least I won't see most of the people again for a very long time!

The next two days were a bit of a rush. My cousin's wedding ceremonies had begun on the Jan 1st, so I attended all the ceremonies I could. That's the advantage of having 7-day-long weddings.. if you miss one bit of it, you can always attend the other bits.

The journey back to Newcastle was a bit of a mess. I had a night-long layover in Hyderabad's spanking new airport. I slept all the way to Heathrow Airport. In Newcastle, my mate Sina came to get me from the airport which I'm incredibly grateful for because I didn't really want to drag myself and my three bags through snow to the taxi stand.

Oh the snow! It's everywhere! It's pretty to look at but it's ridiculously difficult to walk anywhere. And now there are icicles outside my window.

I've started my rotations for third year. Currently, I'm doing Mental Health till the end of January - it kind of goes with the general mood for this time of the year - gray. But the snow has got in the way (surprise surprise!) and sessions have been canceled because of danger to patients/us so I haven't done very much since Tuesday morning. I did, however, have a snowball fight today with some friends. Us medical students.. so productive!
LinkSuture me up!

Idiocy [Dec. 29th, 2009|09:03 am]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Nagpur, India]

On Monday, I went to watch the film 3 idiots starring the awesome Aamir Khan among others. The film is about three engineering students in one of the top engineering colleges of India, headed by a mean, grumpy and traditionalist old professor (whose daughter Aamir Khan romances in the film). Aamir Khan's character, Rancho, is an unconventional student (by Indian standards) who campaigns tirelessly against rote learning and instead discovering one's own potentials. The film doesn't bore you for five minutes, there's a twist or turn, a laugh or a lump in the throat every few minutes.
Moreover, it touches on the very important issue of student suicide. You see, in India the average parent feels the need to superimpose their wishes for their child on the child's own wish to pursue a profession of his/her own choice which ends up, sometimes, in disaster as the child can't take the stress of studying subjects he doesn't like at college or university level, and out of the fear of failing his family, he commits suicide.
It's terribly easy to blame such suicides on the rigorous and ruthlessly competitive nature of the education system in India, but that's only part of the equation. To tackle this problem, the mindsets of parents must change too. I reckon that will happen when my generation of people become parents because we have been exposed to moving films like 3 idiots and the educated majority won't want to put their own children through the same difficult situations as they were in themselves.

Fortunately, my own parents kept an arm's length away from my education which worked out for the best because right now I'm doing something I really like. Moral of the story, it's important to give your kid some space.

On Saturday, I went on a night out with my friends here Arjun and Chirag. I never thought I'd say this about Nagpur (especially now that I'm living in Newcastle) but that was the best night out I had. We left the Bottleneck night club at like 2 or something and then we were really hungry so we went to the only restaurant that was open at the time, Center Point. I don't think I ate very much, I was too busy flirting with everything that moved. I reached home at 4 AM I think.

4 AM probably wasn't a good time to reach home that particular night because the next day my aunty, her colleague and I were going to visit a school for special needs children, about an hour's drive outside Nagpur. We left at 7 AM, and I was surprisingly awake throughout the ride given that I had only had about an hour's nap at home (not so surprising when you count the number of potholes between Nagpur and Ramtek!).
At the school, we gave away medicines to the children and then I clicked pictures of them. I didn't really get to do much else, but it was a good experience, very different from the relatively quiet Dubai Center for Special Needs where I've volunteered.

Then tonight we went to a restaurant called Bablu da Dhaba (which translates to Bablu's roadside restaurant) for my cousin's farewell coz she's getting married in a few days. The food was good, but what was even better was the fact that we made the manager sing Babul ki dua'ey leti ja ("take the blessings of your father") and he knew all three stanzas of the folk song whereas the best among us could only manage the first two lines!!

I'm gutted that I'm not staying for my cousin's wedding because I have to go back to stupid Newcastle in the stupid cold to study stupid medicine from Jan 4th and she's getting married the next day :(
Link2 stitches Suture me up!

Funnage [Dec. 23rd, 2009|01:06 am]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Nagpur, India]
[מרגיש · Feeling |fullfull]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |the howling of the neighborhood dogs]

I'm really enjoying being in India. Especially today, since my cousin came back home from university in student-city Pune (poo-nay). We've had the best day together, just eating constantly, napping through the noise coming from the mosque across the road, eating even more (coconut water, ice cream, cottage cheese) and laughing at everything.

I went to watch the Bollywood film Paa on Saturday night. It's about a child born out of wedlock to an obstetrician and a politician. Trouble is, the child has progeria, a condition that makes him age faster than normal (pro - "before the scheduled time"; geria - "old age"). The story was good, with some slightly unnecessary childishness in some places. I definitely recommend it, if you can get your hands on a copy (with subtitles if you need them!).

Been shopping on Sunday. Got some new footwear for the summer (I'm thinking ahead, you see), got some gym clothes that are reasonably, er, revealing (lets leave it at that). I really should stop before I amass a huge pile of things that I can't take back to Newcastle with me.. but stuff is ridiculously cheap here. Or so I believe.

Back to my shopping list... (yes, at 1 in the night!)
LinkSuture me up!

घर आजा परदेसी तेरा देस बुलाए [Dec. 18th, 2009|11:55 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |The Orange City, India]
[מרגיש · Feeling |thirstythirsty]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |the hum of the pc]

I've reached India finally, after about a day and a half of travel.

The exams on Tuesday and Wednesday were alright, I'm not expecting a great grade because I made some really stupid mistakes in the practical exam. But apparently this exam doesn't count for very much so I'm not too bothered.

After exams some friends and I went to Opera Bar for cocktails. I had a lime-basil-cranberry cocktail.. it was the best thing in the world! I had it without alcohol so no horrible bitter aftertaste.

I was beginning to regret planning a trip to India this Christmas because some close friends are gonna be back home in Dubai. But as the plane was creeping over the Indian Ocean, I began to see the bright side of things: I'm gonna be seeing a lot of my cousins and friends and there's enough to do to keep my from biting my fingers with boredom.

Arriving in India was like changing one set of masks for another (or perhaps discarding them altogether?). I noticed my native body language and tone of voice coming back as I was stood outside the airport, waiting for my hotel car in the warm Mumbai night, gesturing with my head and hands at the auto-rickshaw driver to tell him to move on as I didn't need a lift off him.
It all felt a bit surreal because just a few hours ago, I'd been in Britain with my British (and non-British) friends, feeling perfectly comfortable and now I was in Mumbai, surrounded by "my people" who were unfamiliar to me. The ads on the radio weren't using an imitated Indian accent to make it sound funny - the Indian accents were very much real and they didn't mean for their pronunciations to be funny either. The change in people, attitudes, accents, atmosphere, they're all screwing with my head.

I need to plan the days ahead carefully so I can see all my relatives, go shopping, catch up on all the Bollywood that I've missed, catch up on sleep, maybe take a short trip to a different city, and also do some Skills work. Might be able to combine some of these things e.g. sleep + relatives

"You've picked up a Geordie accent."
-- lady on the plane, to a horrified me.
Link3 stitches Suture me up!

Firework memory [Nov. 8th, 2009|07:47 pm]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Tine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |calmcalm]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |John Williams - Stolen Memories]

Last Thursday was Guy Fawkes' Night here in England. The night commemorates the arrest of Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic who was part of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, the seat of the English Protestant rulership, with gunpowder. Since then, it's tradition to light bonfires and fire fireworks into the sky/neighbors' backyard.

As I was walking back home on Thursday night, I saw the colorful fireworks (albeit nothing as grand as the ones I've seen in the Dubai Shopping Festival). The strong smell of gunpowder transported me back 17 years to the verandah of our home in Nagpur, India. I have vague memories of a Diwali celebration we had at our place in Nagpur when I was little (probably about four years old). There were diyas (mud lamps) outside the house. We had some fireworks like phuljhadi (sparkly sticks) and anaar (pomegrenate) and fire crackers that had scared Elsa the dog away. The smell of gunpowder had been strong in the air.
So I reached my door, dreaming of that night at home in India. I turned the key and let myself in and it didn't smell of gunpowder anymore.
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Mr Muscles [Sep. 19th, 2009|10:26 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcaslte upon Tyne, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |optimisticoptimistic]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Stereo Nation - Ishq]

I've started working out at the gym. It's been two weeks now and it looks like I can fit four sessions a week into my timetable quite comfortably - of course, this is before Desi Soc work reaches its peak, and before all the non-medics/dentists start pouring back into Newcastle after their extensive summer breaks.
Anyway, so it seems that my efforts are starting to pay off: I went to town today to meet up with my friend Sangita and she looked at my arms and said, "Danni, have you been going to the gym?"
That felt nice. She also complimented my hair and facial hair, which led me to believe that she might have been joking after all.
But then I went to see another friend and he asked me if I work out. Interesting. Have my deltoids and biceps got bigger from just one week of lifting four kilo weights? Or was I just wearing a tight tee-shirt? Never thought having air pumped into my head would be so pleasant.

Anyway. Last week was GI week. Not as in GI Joe, but as in Gastro-Intestinal. It's been quite interesting, albeit mind-numbing at times (especially when each doctor/nurse/tutor asked us, on umpteen separate occasions to list the causes of abdominal pain!). It's absolutely vast and giving one week to GI medicine does it no justice at all.
I've seen quite a few interesting patients in this week. In terms of life history, the most amazing patient I've seen was a lady in her eighties. After giving us a history of what had happened to her, she told us she had been in a bomb shelter in the '40s when England was getting bombed. Two of her sisters who were with her in the same bomb shelter were killed by a bomb and she had to pull her dying father from underneath the rubble of the shelter. I was amazed when she told us that. Thinking back, she must've only been a teenager when that happened. What a heart-wrenching thing to happen when you're in your teens!

Next week is surgery week. I'm hoping to cling on to one of the surgeons at the hospital and making a grand entry into the operation theater. Scalpel!
Link6 stitches Suture me up!

Doctor in training [Sep. 6th, 2009|11:44 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcatle upon Grime, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |happyhappy]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Dominique Cerejo - Ye Tumhari Meri Baatein]

I started third year last Tuesday. Can't believe I'm already in third year.. seems like only a few days ago that I first came to Newcastle, a confused 19-year-old. I get the feeling from my experience so far that it gets better with each passing year.

The first week's been alright, just induction talks and introductions to this, that and the other. We got to see patients/take histories from the very first day. Quite cool, really. It's different from my work experience in the hospital in Dubai for lots of reasons, but mainly because I was by myself there when chatting with/examining patients, here I'm paired up with a fellow medical student.

My most amazing experience this week has been with a confused patient my mate and I saw. She gave us a vague history of a fall but when we looked through her notes, she'd had a lot wrong with her including internal bleeding. It was quite shocking to be honest, because as a doctor I will be expected to know what's wrong with a patient from what they tell me but there I was, not having the faintest clue from what she told us, that she'd had a near-fatal internal bleed.

Some post that I was expecting came through on Friday. I had wrote to the BMA News (the one that's read by grown-up doctors, not just students! :-þ) about the British government's decision to demand master's degrees as a minimum qualification required from non-EU citizens who graduated from UK medical schools (i.e., people like me) in order to work as doctors in the country - and since medicine is taught as an undergraduate degree in all medical schools (including mine), having only an MBBS degree wouldn't really qualify me for a training post after my years as a foundation doctor (= British equivalent of 'intern' in America). In essence, I spat acid and sulfur at the government and cried discrimination. The editors awarded me a £50 prize for doing that. I think what got my letter picked as the prize letter was the usage of the phrase 'spectacularly unfair' in describing the government's decision.
The letter was published in the June 20th issue but I was in Dubai then and I only found out I'd won a prize when I came back to Newcastle and saw the letter from the BMA News people congratulating me. Basically, I could select a few books from a list they sent me and that was my prize. So I picked the following:

1. A House in Fez - Suzanna Clarke
2. Great British Wit - Rosemarie Jarski
3. The Book of Idle Pleasures - ed. Tom Hodgkinson and Dan Keiran
4. Thrifty Ways for Modern Days - Martin Lewis
5. Aid and Other Dirty Business - Giles Bolton

They arrived in the post on Friday.
Note the title of #4 - I now have a book that actually gives me guidance on how to be cheap. This must be my holy book.. I'll have to find 10 cheap commandments from the book.

Currently reading #2, Great British Wit. I read the funniest quote last night, about Scotland and the Scots:

'The kilt is an unrivalled garment for fornication and diarrhoea'
-- John Masters

I laughed myself to sleep.
LinkSuture me up!

Back to the grind.. not yet! [Aug. 29th, 2009|11:49 pm]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Whine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |worriedworried]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Etti Ankri - Shir Labat]

I flew back to Newcastle last Monday. I always feel really weird and unpleasant going back to England from Dubai, even though I was looking forward to going back because
1. I start my clinical learning from September 1st - in a REAL hospital! Whozyadaddy!
2. I move into a new place when I go back this time.

Anyway, the journey was alright. In Dubai, they "upgraded" me from JustSimplyForPoorPeople Economy class to Premium Economy on the British Airways flight to Heathrow. There wasn't a huge difference between the two, in fact I would've got more leg room had they let me stick with my original seat selection (I always go for the exit row seats in an online check-in).
Anyway, I had a couple of hours on Heathrow so I walked around the terminal for a bit, then had the bright idea of ringing my new place's landlord to ask him to leave the keys for me.. so I did.
When I was sat at the gate for my flight to Newcastle, I saw a friend of mine from uni, she's in the year below me. She was going to Newcastle too.
In Newcastle, we waited for our bags. My friend got her bags and left. The carousel stopped and my bag still hadn't come. They told me that BA had left my bag in Heathrow and it would arrive on the next flight that evening. For all their upgrading, they could've at least got my bag on the same plane as me!
I went out and caught a cab to go straight to my new place. I saw a couple of orthodox Jewish men haggling with a cab driver who was telling them it would cost £20 to go to their destination and they wanted to do the whole journey for £5. LOL guys, you're good competition in cheapness for us Indian folk.

New place is nice. Very nice. I'd post pictures but I haven't took any yet. Suffice to say that my room is bigger than a cupboard (which is what I lived in last year) and best of all, I have my own bathroom!! YEAH! I've heard that this house and the adjoining ones used to be a hotel some time ago which is why some rooms have en-suites and everything is larger than life.
I've spent the last few days moving stuff from the old place to the new place and trying to get my address changed systematically in records held by hundreds of organizations e.g. my bank, the DVLA, university etc.

Desi Society has already started becoming a big part of my life. There's so much to do in the next two months; deep deep down inside I fear that it won't go smoothly. Or is that the (loud) voice of the neurotic control freak in me?
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Independence Day [Aug. 16th, 2009|11:57 pm]
[Tags|, , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Dubai, UAE]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |ABBA - Fernando]

Yesterday was India's Independence Day - swatantrata diwas or as it's colloquially known in India, pandra agust (= 15th of August). I didnt do anything to celebrate, I didn't even hum the national anthem.
I was kind of annoyed with myself for not being more patriotic. But I just don't feel the spirit of Independence Day, so far away from India. I wanted to sing the national anthem too, wave the tiranga (tricolor) flag about and smear my face in saffron and green but I couldn't find anyone doing it here. We non-chalantly wished each other 'Happy Independence Day', but that was it. I should have been in India, maybe I would've felt more driven to celebrate.

Also went to see Abhishek yesteday. He's going back to Canada tomorrow and I don't know when I'll see him next. We watched Adam Sandler's Funny People, it was an alright film. Dragged a bit in the end and both of us really wanted to pee coz we'd had too much soda.

I still feel a bit guilty about not celebrating Independence Day properly. Next year, perhaps.
LinkSuture me up!

A midsummer night's post [Jul. 26th, 2009|11:16 pm]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Dubai, UAE]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Ash King - Dil Gira Dafatan]

My friends Josh and Jess stopped in Dubai on their way home from China to England, almost two weeks ago. They were here only three days. We went to the Dubai Museum with them, to the Atlantis Hotel to wow at the ice-cream tossing skills of the staff at the Coldstone Creamery there (and then proceeded to eat said ice cream) and to stare at the fish in the huge aquarium there for ages, to Dubai Mall to see the fountain show and to stuff our faces with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and to watch the new Harry Potter film the day it came out in Dubai.
It was good fun while they were here.. hadn't been to Atlantis or to see the fountain show at Dubai Mall before this, even though they're not very far away from home.

I've been sitting in with some radiologists in a hospital here, trying to learn to interpret X-rays, MR images and some CTs too. My presence in their little office inspires nostalgia in all three radiologists and they start talking about their medical school days, this subject and that professor. There isn't even that much for me to learn in radiology as an undergraduate.. I correctly identified a fracture of the fifth metacarpal (a bone of the hand) on an X-ray, but then later remembered that I'd mistakenly (and quite loudly) called it the fifth metatarsal (a bone of the foot). FAIL.

This last weekend was a memorable one. My parents and sister went to Goa for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary, so my brother and I were pretty much by ourselves. We got a few friends to come over on Thursday night for a wee party. Since there was going to be a good bit of booze, my brother asked me to get cola, orange juice, Red Bull etc. from the supermarket. So we got some. Bad idea.. because a couple of bottles of Pepsi came with the pizza, and my cousin brought over more juice. So now our fridge is flooded with sugary fluids of all kinds. Maybe it's not such a bad thing coz I'm ill and being a (very good) medical student, I know that I need to keep taking my fluids, so I'm downing the Diet Pepsi in the fridge by the gallon.
Anyway, so at the party, we watched The Hangover, tried to play Blackjack and poker. Most people (all six of them) had left by now, so it was just my brother, his best friend Tariq, Tasneem and me. We randomly drove to the petrol station to grab dessert at 3 AM. Then all of us except my brother stayed up till 7 talking about whatever came to mind.

Is it weird that I'm already making plans for next summer?
Link2 stitches Suture me up!

Obligatory writing in the journal [Jul. 12th, 2009|11:46 pm]
[Tags|, , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Dubai, United Arab Emirates]

I've been in Dubai a month and a day now. It's been full of activity for the most part - three birthdays, going to random restaurants for sheesha, millions of trips to the hospital for various reasons, a bit of alcohol, films, saccharine sachet coffee, sleepovers and oh, driving around only in the neighborhood because I'm not allowed to drive in proper traffic..

I'm still worrying about stuff I should be doing e.g. getting Desi Soc ready for the new academic year, writing Skills notes about neurological conditions, congratulating relatives for the new baby in their lives, learning to speak better Arabic and more. Honestly, life is so difficult in the summer holidays.

A couple of my friends from Newcastle stopping in Dubai for a bit starting Tuesday. I think my sister's more excited about their coming than I am.
Speaking of which, my cousin sisters have left Dubai to spend their summer vacation in India. So has their mum, my aunty. Feeling slightly confused and lost without them.

This is an obligatory post. More coming later

Cat on my brother's bedroom window sill. Is it a nap? Is it a sunstroke? Who knows..
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Surprise!! [Jun. 15th, 2009|03:19 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Dubai, United Arab Emirates]
[מרגיש · Feeling |hothot]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Rufus Wainwright - Rebel Prince]

I came home last Thursday. I hadn't told anyone that I was coming on Thursday, except Papa coz he had to sort out the visa.
I was so excited, I started packing on the Monday before. There wasn't even that much to pack, just clothes and a few books.

More than coming home, I think, it was the idea of the journey to Dubai and the thoughts of the looks on my folks' faces when they saw me that excited me. It worked out well because Papa kept the secret well. He came to see me at the airport and then I went home with my bags.
When I entered the house, Ammi was sat in the kitchen and Sarah was upstairs. When Ammi saw me, she howled (not in pain, I hope!) and hooted lol. Sarah came downstairs and gave me a big hug.
When my aunty from across the road saw me, she was sort of speechless for a minute and then said, "I'll kill you!"
Abeer was asleep even though she was meant to be at work. I went to lie down beside her and she pushed me away thinking it was Mariam. Then she realized it WASN'T Mariam, so she opened her eyes and gasped.
Mariam herself squealed when she saw me, much like Sarah.
Insia's reaction was so blasé, she was just like, "Hi Danu bhai!" and then went back to watching the telly - as if I hadn't been away at all.
My brother came home from work in the evening and he was moderately surprised to see me.
Arjun walked in when I was talking to my mum about something, heard my voice and said, "Dan boy, I knew it was you!!"
I couldn't surprise Abhishek or Tasneem in person.. had to do it over the phone :( Never mind.

Haven't been doing much since then. Attempted to play squash on Friday.. pulled a muscle! Currently in the process of ringing up hospital administrators and emotionally blackmailing them or spamming them with copies of my résumé so they'll let me shadow a few doctors at their respective hospital for the two months that I'm here. It's been massively unsuccessful til now because either they're out of office or haven't heard of e-mail technology (or both).

Compare that to the three hours I spent in the autopsy theater in Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary last Wednesday, a few hours before flying to Dubai. I simply e-mailed one of the pathologists Dr C, asking if I could observe the post-mortem exams he does on Wednesday mornings. Yeah sure, he said, and gave me the directions to the autopsy theater. So I went.
Saw a man who had died of lung cancer (squamous cell carcinoma of the bronchus). His lungs were hard with pneumonia and pus oozed out when Dr C pressed them. The tumor itself was incredibly hard. Even though we knew what he had, Dr C had to go through all the organs to check for pathology there. I felt a real brain!
Also saw a middle-aged woman who had died of a heart attack (= myocardial infarction or MI). Apparently she had had a silent MI a few years ago - I didn't even know MIs could be silent!
Lastly, saw a little seven-year-old boy who had been hit by a car. He had fractured his skull on the left, just behind the ear and the fracture had spread to the base of the skull. There was a second fracture in the front; the meninges had torn through this one and the brain was showing, covered in blood. He also had a massive bleed in his abdomen (which could've been what killed him) and a bleed on his left hip. But what I remember most vividly from looking at him and holding his emptied skull up for Dr C to examine are his teal blue eyes, half shut; his mouth slightly open, showing his milk teeth; and his hair, still gelled up in spikes. I felt his parents' pain for a fleeting moment. I mentally reprimanded myself for making judgments about his social class without even knowing so much as his name.
It was eye-opening, watching these people get examined from the inside. What struck me was that the people working in the autopsy theater just went about their lives around all the dead people, as if nothing was wrong. To me, an outsider, it seemed weird, even surreal but for them I reckon it must be a weekly/daily routine.
Link3 stitches Suture me up!

Racist politics [Jun. 8th, 2009|02:39 am]
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[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |awakeinsomniac]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Achinoam Nini - Boker]


Europe voted for its parliament on Thursday. The results of the polls are out tonight.
Well in advance of the big day (June 4th), I'd been bombarded with invitations to Facebook groups and people handing out flyers on Northumberland Street, and other types of publicity telling me not to vote for the British National Party on June 4th. I've mentioned them before on this blog - about six months ago when their members were 'outed' on the internet and I had thought it was funny how people were scrambling to deny their affiliations with the party (because of their racist attitudes towards the non-white population of Britain). In a nutshell, they want Britain to be a country for its 'indigenous' population of WASPs (which sounds like a fair demand at first) but want the minority groups like brown people, Jews, homosexuals and other 'dirty' people out of Britain.
And they're not alone. There are like-minded parties across Europe, like the National Democratic Party of Germany and the Front National in France. The fear surrounding the June 4th polls was that one or more of these fascist parties would gain seats in the European Parliament. And it happened.

I don't know much about the other European nations but a substantial number of people in Britain must have voted for the BNP, because they won 1 seat (up from 0 seats in the 2004 elections) in the EU parliament. I checked the poll statistics on the BBC and it turns out that Yorkshire is the culprit - they voted the BNP in. People's disappointed Facebook statuses started to make sense.
Does one seat really matter? I reckon it does, because they're up from zero (0) seats to having one, which means their ideology is gaining acceptance.
But I'm not even from Europe, why do I care? To be honest, the BNP aren't sufficiently powerful at this point to do anything that will affect me personally (e.g. stop me from training in the UK). However, I've been living here a while, I have good non-white British friends who can get affected directly by the BNP's fascism and I ought to stick up for them.

The problem is that the BNP are cashing in on the snafus of the other parties, like the recent expenses claims scandal in which MPs from several political parties were involved. The BNP also remorselessly shame other parties' members for not keeping their promises to voters - which is a fairly democratic thing to do, but it pulls votes towards the BNP.
Easier said than done (and I'm certainly not the one doing anything) but the other parties really need to get their act together if they want to impede this fascist party's invasion into British and European government.

Speaking of racism, the journalist Max Blumenthal filmed a telling video of young American Jews in Jerusalem voicing their humble opinions of Barack Obama the night before he gave a brilliant speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. Granted, the young foreigners in the first video had had a few, but alcohol doesn't automatically make you a racist (e.g. "White power, fuck the niggers!" at 0.54 seconds) unless you already harbor such ideas about other races.
Notice the still-sober girl at 1.04 seconds who has some strong opinions about Obama's background and his support for the 'Orabs', but being Jewish and in Israel, doesn't know who Benjamin Netanyahu is ("Who's Benjamin Yahoo?"). Honestly mate.
I'll leave you to discover the rest of the video yourself, if you can stomach the blatant racism oozing from the mouths of people whose grand- and great-grandparents were once persecuted under a racist European government (see above).
I know that these idiots and their zealotry don't represent all of American Jewry (certainly not some of my Jewish American friends) and it's unfair to judge all Jews based on their behavior. But I have a thought: you know how Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister of Israel is demanding that Israeli Arabs swear loyalty to the state or get out and basically wants to place a blanket ban on Israeli Arab culture - what if American Jews were made to swear loyalty to America (which would mean no drunken swearing at the nigger president), give up their Israeli citizenship if they have it and be made to support all of America's policies on the Middle East whether they liked them or not? Think about it. That would be equal to Lieberman's demands from Israeli Arabs, but also outrageously undemocratic. That's probably what the oppressed Israeli Arab minority thinks too.
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I made it! [Jun. 3rd, 2009|11:14 pm]
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[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Shine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |sleepysleepy]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Achinoam Nini - Yuma]

So that was second year!

Results of the final exams were published yesterday morning. I didn't get the chance to check them til lunchtime but I got plenty of texts congratulating me on making it through. When I did check, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I did really quite well on the written exams and the clinical exam.

My clinical exam's score was really good, probably because of the 10/10 marks that I got in the station on the examination of the face! But I think I was more pleased with my score on the written exams because I'd worked really hard for them. I did better on these exams than I did on the ones in January, but only by like one percentage point.

So that was second year. I got jalebees to celebrate :)

Second year was a busy and difficult year for me. The course got a LOT harder (and equally interesting) this year and I participated in more extra-curricular activities than I should have. But I really enjoyed it.. I loved the neurology in the first semester, doing IGF again this year in March, just being part of Desi Society through the ups and downs, and being on the SKILLS team to make an chic new website for medical students. Also, I got to know a lot more people and I got to know a few people a lot better.
And that's why I'm gonna miss it.

That was second year.
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End of the world [May. 30th, 2009|06:44 pm]
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[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |Dido - Life for Rent]

I had my finals last week, on Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday's exam was pretty difficult and Thursday's was difficulter. Interestingly, I had been sure that the anatomy of the ass would come up and as I walked up to my desk in the exam hall on Thursday morning, I saw a big fat high-resolution picture of the gluteal region on the desk. I was right!

Finals are over now. Results are out on Tuesday. I've floated through Thursday afternoon and Friday without doing very much. On Friday I hopped into a car with my friends and went to York for the day. It was really good, we got there just in time to go to the dungeons. Then we walked around for a bit and had some ice-cream on the riverside.

Being lazy on the bank

I really like this picture for some reason. It was one of the narrow streets in the center of York.

Haven't done much since yesterday. Had a driving lesson today. I drove well for most of the lesson but then my instructor asked me to do a reverse round a corner (the second one in that lesson) and I went and reversed into the kerb. Gutted. The lesson didn't go very well after that.

Had a meeting with my Desi Society committee today.. I've started feeling the pressure of being president, partly because we're planning to do a lot more next year than we did in this academic year, and partly because if anything falls through, I'll be responsible. But I've got a good committee I think, and if everyone does their bit, we can get a lot done.

Going to watch a play tonight. The idea is a bit unconventional - it's Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Bollywood style. Apparently it's worth watching because it got a review on the BBC.

Mmm no more exams!
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Idol [May. 25th, 2009|12:42 am]
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[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Whine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |boredbored]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |David Broza - Bedouin Love Song]

Islamic Idol.
What a name!

This is Egypt's (religious) answer to American Idol. It's not an Arab Kelly Clarkson singing bad pop tunes. Much worse, it's Egypt's young men (because letting women sing is haraam!) singing about trying to keep up with the five daily prayers and other duties of Muslims.

I have a couple of questions though:
1. Isn't idolatry haraam too? If there's anything I learnt from all those years of Islamic studies lessons at school, it was that you shouldn't worship idols. So it's a bit ridiculous to see an oxymoron like 'Islamic Idol' as the title of a show.
2. What happened to the fatwahs that listening to music is haraam? Why am I a sinner if I listen to Coldplay but I remain a good Muslim if I listen to one of these guys singing about their homies at the masjid?
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Flattery [May. 8th, 2009|11:37 pm]
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[מרגיש · Feeling |amusedamused]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |A R Rahman - Tu Bin Bataye]

Just read the marker's feedback for my second essay of the Patient Study (see previous post) - this is the 1,500-word essay about the "biographical disruption" (yup, another made-up phrase... bloody sociologists!) that occurs with chronic illness. The marker had been overly generous with the positive comments, which surprises me because my essay had the unmistakable aura of bullshit radiating from it. What stands out is the very first comment of the marker, who presumably is a sociologist of some sort:

'Well presented' my arse! My essay was paragraph after boring paragraph of repetitive, pseudo-emotive text with ONE measly flowchart to fulfill the requirement of 'visual aids'. Honestly, I thought I'd get proper thrashed by the marker for the nonsense I'd wrote in that essay (because I couldn't think of sensible things to write!) - but the marker was extremely nice. I think I kinda like sociologists now. Aww.

However, the markers for the first essay (the 4,000-word long one) were less than accepting of the genuine hard work that I put into that one. One of them even had the nerve to start the feedback with the words "Oh dear!" implying that my work needed a stupendous amount of improvement. I'm not bothered by it though.. you're meant to describe everything about your patient's chronic illness but you only have 4,000 words to play around with, so it's a Sisyphean challenge to include everything the markers want to see because they always seem to able to come up with something or the other that "you could have mentioned..."

I really should go revise! Clinical exam in 10 days...
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Yogurt, sand and results [May. 7th, 2009|11:43 pm]
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[?איפה בעזאזל · Where the hell? |Newcastle upon Swine, England, UK]
[מרגיש · Feeling |pleasedpleased]
[מקשיב ל · Listening To |A R Rahman - Tu Bin Bataye]

After a bit of planning and a spectacular amount of work, we finally had the last night out organized by Desi Society on Thursday, April 30th. We called it 'Fresh and Juicy'. Fortunately, we had the financial capability to make this gig one for charity, so our president found a few potential charities we could donate to and we decided to donate a good £1000 to a charity called 'Hrudaya' ह्रदय (which means 'heart' in Hindi) in Andhra Pradesh which pays for the operations of less fortunate children with congenital heart defects.
I think we'll be able to donate more than that amount because we had a charity bucket going that night, right at the door of the nightclub, and people put all sorts of things in it e.g. loose change, a £10 note(!!), $1 bills, a packet of cigarettes - which I'm sure the kids will take turns at smoking after their colossally expensive heart operations.

We made and offered mango lassi to everyone that night. I say we, but it really was our two presidents Afsar and Sri who did all the work. Can't say it was appreciated fully because we had copious amounts of it left over. That worked out well for me because I have a 6-pint carton of the stuff sat in my fridge, taking up all the room. I'm relishing it.

Anyway here are some pictures:

Mango lassi in champagne glasses.. oh the poshness!

That's me with our treasurer, Chris. Notice my tonsils.

I was trying to dance but Sri wanted to show some, er, love.

Then we had the barbeque at Tynemouth beach on Monday because it was a bank holiday. It rained. But we didn't complain (ok, maybe a little bit). We played footie/cricket and had some food. I was grateful to have a day away from the library and revision. But all good things come to an end.

Tynemouth beach. I'd like to live in Tynemouth at some point.

Ok so what this post is REALLY about is the Patient Study. I have ranted on about it for ages to friends and family, if not always here. Despite the nausea it induces in me, it's worth a lot in terms of passing second year medicine. Passing from the pre-clinical to the breathtaking highlands of clinical medicine. So you see, the grades I get on it do have the potential to make me cry. Everyone writes a 4,000 word essay about their patient with a chronic illness and a 1,500 word essay about a sociological issue surrounding their patient's illness. The reports are graded in three strands: skills (grammar, visual material, presentation etc.), knowledge (the actual stuff of your essays) and professionalism (what kind of a person you appear to be from your essay).
The results were out today, posted online. I wanted to check them, but I didn't want to check them. I was apprehensive because last year, with the Family Study, my expectations were brutally dashed against the rocks by the 'B' (borderline fail) grade I got in the knowledge strand.
When I finally did check my grades for it (after having half a nervous breakdown in the toilet), I found out that I'd passed after all. In all three strands. S S S the spreadsheet said. S for satisfactory. A tiny person inside me was expecting an M (merit) in professionalism, but I was happy to have simply passed.

I had mango lassi to celebrate. Yum yum
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