Thursday, September 30, 2010

It will not leave me…

I said I lost a cousin to cancer two weeks back. Now, my husband’s uncle is in the hospital. His sickness has gotten worse and he is on morphine. I’m told he is given this medicine because he has so much pain and is restless. But this medicine keeps him in that – kind of semi-conscious state – all sedated and not fully aware of anything. I don’t like the thought of him being sedated but I think there is no better thing anyone can do to help him. I visited him only twice in the one week he has been at the hospital. When I’m at the hospital, I just sit on the sofa and watch him, or watch his relatives trying to do anything available to make him feel better. It is exasperating to see how they are ill at ease, not really knowing what they must do. They massage his feet, put a wet cloth on his forehead; they make him sit for a while. They make him lean backwards on a pile of pillows. I feel that the patient might feel irritated by this constant disturbance though he doesn’t show it. But I guess, I must understand their feeling of helplessness and how urgently they want to help.

I’m touched by the many relatives who come to see him and his own children who are around him every day. All his children are grown up and have good government jobs. I think this must make him feel a little better. Imagine a young person, imagine my cousin who left behind his two young school-going sons. But I’m not saying that it is ok to die once our children are grown up and are able to fend for themselves. It isn’t. But then, never in our life do we feel ok to die. It is sad how we want to prolong our life even by a breath and how far we can go in doing it. I’m dumbfounded by the life’s uncertainty. I’m paralyzed by the fear of the unknown.

I went home yesterday to find that my mother brought home a 76 year old man from Paro who had come to Thimphu for treatment. He has nowhere to stay. On inquiring, he told me that he went through surgery twice, three years back. He said, ‘I was seen by Dr Sonam. He asked me to come to him when I had health problem.’ Luckily my husband works in the hospital. I tell him that he will take him to the hospital the next day.

This morning, he went through his bundle of prescriptions and I was told that he had stomach cancer. What now? Why cancer everywhere? It is as if, it is determined to etch a mark in me until I have done something about this disease or about my own life. I’m struck by this coincidence. It is there not to leave…and I can only hope that its message, I get it clear.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How Rare Is It?

I wonder if I’m not dying tomorrow. Death is hanging right at my shoulder. It is peeping at me now and then, as if to ask me if I’m ready and it is so disappointing to say that I’m not. Who is?

And now, I wonder at the countless number of people I know die of cancer. The first time I got kicked by such news was when I heard that one of my classmates’ girlfriend was diagnosed leukemia and despite everything the hospital did, she died. She was undergoing her engineering course.

Then I heard of someone I called ‘Ata’ die of the same disease. He was a teacher and he had just about started a family. He was referred to Kolkata for surgery but the disease, deadly as it is feared -- it takes life out of you mercilessly. He died before I could go and see him. The fact that he died left in me a deep hole. It was as if I could not cure from not being able to really grasp the truth that, in fact, he died and he was no more.

Then came so many news in between, of that person, of this person dying of cancer. A 49 year old woman from my village, related to me as well dies of cervical cancer. Then, another woman, related to me again, (in fact a close relative) dies of cancer again.

Before all these news could sink in me and I could accept the reality of cancer being common hear of this disease taking away another of my relatives. This time, it is a person I grew up seeing around. He is my second cousin (from father’s side). I remember growing up witnessing the good relationship my father and his father shared. And for this reason, I feel, I should do whatever I can to help them. My two elder brothers are his friends. So they are closer to him than I am. He is 48 and has two sons. A young beautiful wife and two wonderful sons. And now, he being diagnosed cancer? I’m told he had colon cancer and had spread to liver as well – and so there was nothing hospital can do. He was soon discharged.

Today, it is exactly 3 weeks that he had been referred here from Mongar Hospital. But how sad is it that the disease really did not know that he should have been spared! Early morning I hear that he passed away.

I knew he was going to die. But even when you knew it, it isn’t easy to say, oh yes, I knew he was going to die. I wonder what is causing cancer. I’m sure so many people in other countries are dying of this disease too but what I cannot believe is that I grew up learning or hearing that this is a rare disease. But look at me alone seeing so many people die of this disease! How rare is it?

If you want to know more, yes, my husband’s uncle died of throat cancer last year. And another uncle of his is lying in bed now, the liver cancer eating him away. It is so suffocating to see a person lie in bed, hoping that he will be able to resume normal activities, while the rest of the people know that he is dying. And now, this disease, cancer, isn’t there a way people could suspect it before it has spread over to other organs and hospital say, ‘it has come to the last stage and there is nothing we can do?” Does its symptoms really manifest only in the very last minute?

There ought to be something we can do.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Open Heart Delivery

I attended a parents-teachers meeting in Lungtenzampa Lower Secondary School last year. The teachers gave us a few papers on which are written questions that children usually have and what parents should do to groom them a good person. The following are what children usually have in their mind:
(I’ll give my views on each of the question and how we could help our children with respect to each question.)
  • Mother, why are you not telling me anything when I am roaming?
=> Parents should know where their children are. If their children want to roam around with their friends for a while, they must say so to their parents and they should not lie to their parents and say that they are going to their friend’s house to work on homework. They should not be forced to make up stories. Parents should foster an environment where their children can talk to them face to face. They can do so by not always disapproving what they say. Children are not completely foolish. Our culture is such that, in a crowd of elders, children are not allowed – they would not be allowed to witness what they talk and if by any chance a child is among them and says something, they would ignore his view, totally. 
  • Father, why are you not listening to me when I am telling something to you?
=>Yes, parents should have time for their children. If parents thought they could have no time for their children, they should have given second thought of bringing them in the world. They cannot take sex as a mere forgetful accident-causing action. 
  • I always do everything on time but why don’t you send me out with my friends?
=>Today the world is so competitive and so parents tend to get worked up with the thought of how well their children may fare. This makes them want their children to work so hard, so hard that sometimes they forget human can work only so hard. Just as machines need rest, humans do too. Everything exhausts. So instead of making their children study, study and study, they should ask them to take rest. Middle path is what we always say.
  • Why do two of you fight? Moreover, dad you always find another wife?
=>It is natural to have difference between spouses. But we should not think it is natural to bring the differences up in front of our children. Not that we should fake our demeanor. If we are frank with our children, they will understand us. But, I think, instead of taking it for granted that they will understand us, it is better to resolve the difference parents have behind the children, without causing them to have other multiple questions of whys and whats. Sometime it could be the husband who has an affair or sometime, it could be the wife. In either case, they should not make it an embarrassing scene. It is not happening to them alone. A father should not give his children the impression that he is a Casanova. He probably feels nice about it but his children don’t find it cool.
  • Why two of you are always fighting and drinking alcohol and taking Baba and Doma?
=>I think it is extremely important to remember that what our children learn are what we show them. We should not indulge in all these intoxicating behaviors in front of our children. If you are already addicted to smoking for example, you know how addiction works. You should not let your children think that it is alright to smoke. Because you know it isn’t. Of course, your children ought to pick up the habit you show them, if you are not careful. 
  • Other parents, when their children come home from school, they ask, “How was your day? What did you do in school today?”  But my parents don’t ask like this. Why is this so? I want to share all my feelings with them.
=>It comes down to saying the same thing. Parents should have time for their children. They must inquire how they are doing at school, what they did at school, who their friends are, what kind of things they do together, etc. It isn’t called nosy. It is parents’ responsibility to let their children feel that they are cared. They are growing up right now and it is important for them to feel cared. What is more important than many things is that, they must be encouraged. If they did something wrong, you don’t straight away get jumpy and shout. You have to tell them that, that was a mistake but they could do it better next time. They should tell them how though.

Note: These are random thoughts. The note has been lying in my ‘To Do’ file for more than a year. And as I sorted through my files, I thought I should get it done with and what I wrote here is a fast-run thought of a momentary parental role. Some might think, what I write is irrelevant because I’m not a parent myself but I think, I have been parenting many children already. I may not be doing the best too, but we can all try.

I will bring up a sequence to this on the daughters having different set of questions, mostly to do with cultural view on women.

As You Throw It Away

I have the habit of scribbling every small thing in my notepad. Now, this is bad because, I develop a certain kind of attachment to each of this notepad that I pain when I have to discard them. Today I am discarding one.

Tomorrow I will have to discard another. I have a collection of letters. From long time back. They are like trash in a way because they occupy space. I like to keep my room as open as possible – meaning, I don’t like having so many furniture stuffed in a room. So I was thinking if I should throw the collection of letters, diaries, journals and greeting cards I have.

No, I did not throw my diaries, journals and letters. I just pushed away my thought of getting rid of them. One thought says, I must get rid of them now, rather than have people read my inner thoughts after I die. And another thought says, I must keep them because what people make of them after my death won’t matter to me. Whatever, I’m keeping them for now. I threw away a few rough papers already – on which I wrote some of the passing fancies and thoughts.

When I went home on a break during my college days, as the bus traveled through Namling (between Bumthang and Monggar), I would fear what might happen to my diaries if I died. It would push me too far that the fear would almost consume me. But in a way, I feel, it would be only good that people will come to know me better, they will remember me better and they will have something to remember me by. Naturally it will be your beloved who will have all these personal belongings of yours and I think in a way, it will really help him/her live without you. I know it doesn’t work that way in our culture. The moment someone dies, he/she is no longer with us. Their thought in fact invokes more fear than fond memories. Now, I don’t want that to happen to me.

But, I would want to write love letters to my hubby, if I’m dying before him. I don’t want this lowly thought to come to me. I was just meaning to say that diaries become too much a part of you that you put so much importance in them – you see life spring from them; you talk to them and then, your thought about parting with them in a way tears you apart just as if you are stashing away a part of you.

This is Bhutan

I moved to Adelaide, South Australia 10 months ago. This decision was driven by my belief that family has to be together and pursuing your c...