Monday, 13 May 2019

'When Breath Becomes Air' by Paul Kalanithi - Book review

There are books that break your heart. And then there are books that create a hole in your chest so deep that it may take a long time to get repaired. These are the books that touch the nerves inside you that hurt the most, strip you of all the faux coping mechanisms under which you have covered yourself and then leave you out in the cold letting those nerves hurt, and hurt hard.

Paul Kalanithi's 'When Breath Becomes Air' is one such book for me. The book though started on a bleak note with a long foreword and a lot of details about Paul's education, his words started touching those raw nerves when he talks about his journey, first as a medical student, then as a doctor and later as a patient.

'When Breath Becomes Air' talks about mortality and life in the rawest words possible. Paul's confessions as a doctor, sympathy towards his patients, the urge to understand the patient-doctor relationship that is laced with limitations and exhilaration both, his responsibility as a neurosurgeon and his quest to understand life and death make you adore him for the person and the doctor that he was. The only thought crosses your mind at this point is 'If only. If only all the doctors in today's times were like him.    

And then starts the narrative of his own journey as a cancer patient at the age of thirty six when life was looking more promising than ever. But as they say, life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans. During his suffering as a patient, he keeps going back to thinking about the times when the roles were reverse. 

All through the book, you can feel the urgency. The urgency to tell so many things, the urgency to pour everything out, the urgency of time - the most limited resource he had. The book tears you up with a epilogue written by his wife. The details she captured about his death, about her climbing into the bed with him one last time when he was about to let go is heart wrenching. 

I don't know if this book tore me apart because I have a history of losing someone too close to this disease seventeen years ago. And it still hurts the same. But then it is said that when something comes straight from the heart, it hits hard. And a dying man's words couldn't have come from anywhere else. 

This book goes undoubtedly to my list of most loved books. Go read. And get your heart broken a little bit. 

Quoting a few lines that I loved from the book. 
“All of medicine, not just cadaver dissection, trespasses into sacred spheres. Doctors invade the body in every way imaginable. They see people at their most vulnerable, their most scared, their most private. They escort them into the worlds and then back out. Seeing the body as a matter and mechanism is the flip side to easing the most profound human suffering”.

Learning to judge whose lives could be saved, whose couldn’t be, and whose shouldn’t be requires an unattainable prognostic ability.”  

“When there’s no space for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool.”

"If the weight of mortality doesn't grow lighter, does it at least grow familiar?”

“Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time; it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day”

“Death may be a onetime event, but living with terminal illness is a process”

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Tonight is imperfect !

Tonight is imperfect. The air is hanging around me, too full with longing and despair. The longing is so harsh, so hard; it has created holes in the night sky and is melting the moon. The moon drips, drop by drop like yellow salted butter. Over plants with white buds and trees with yellow leaves. The trees are my friends. They will not give away my secret. They hide my despair between their thick branches and yellow leaves. The flowers are traitors. They always have been. They sometimes convey feelings that the giver hasn't put inside them.

The traitors will bloom tomorrow. Not white. But Yellow. They will bloom yellow, fragrant with my despair. Everyone will then know I have been radiating sadness, creating holes in the sky and melting the moon. 
Tomorrow I will have to eat those traitors. They will taste of salt and unnamed emotions. Maybe then I would reek. But not of despair, not of sadness. I would reek of 'distance from you.'

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Different yet alike or Alike yet different

He was a part of them, and yet not one of them. He looked like them in appearance but not in the mind. He appeared to be on their side, and yet always followed his own path. He was the youngest in the group, yet mature in his thoughts. He was like that as long as he could remember. 

At seven, when other young boys in the group bathed in the river and played on its banks, he dreamed about sitting with his mother and listening to her songs. At nine, when other boys in class got into fist fights, he talked to his sister. At fourteen, when others talked about girls in deriding manner, he told them stories about brave queens and goddesses that he had heard from his mother. At eighteen, when other boys mistreated their wives, he stayed mum about the way he treated his own. 

He didn't mistreat his wife. But neither did he treat her any special in public. He was educated. But not so much to be able to avoid the social stigma of being called a henpecked husband surrounded by illiterate people he called society.  

Day 3 - Picture prompt

‘I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

World upside down

I remember that day clearly. The day my world went upside down. It was around 8 in the evening. Sunaina, my wife was on her way back home. She had been a little late from office due to March coming to a close. The weather was getting hotter. Slowly, the weather Gods would be increasing their wrath, as if testing people’s patience or punishing them for their past life’s crimes. I had reached home on time and served myself a couple of glasses of fresh lime juice. The sugary sweet taste of fresh lime juice was a perfect anecdote for the weather. Meanwhile, waiting for my wife, I had cut vegetables and soaked rice. Tonight, we had planned on having biryani. I loved devouring my wife’s biryani. Not just biryani, I loved everything she cooked. My stomach churned a little and I helped myself to a few pieces of cake she had baked a couple of days ago. I left last two pieces as post dinner dessert.
Little did I know my world was about to go upside down in a few minutes. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be able to have my last piece of cake. Little did I know that I would not be able to have my wife’s biryani that day. Little did I know that my wife would come home with a doctor’s report making me a diabetic and snatching me away from the true love of my life – sweets.  

Day 2 - Picture prompt

‘I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’

Monday, 4 March 2019

The colour of everything I knew

The first thing I noticed about you and fell for, it was the colour of your eyes. When we were on the dance floor, it was the colour of my twirling dress. When you held my hand for the first time, it was the colour of the chandelier in the restaurant. When you made me laugh lifting my spirits from its dungeons, it was the colour I saw fading from my mood. When time stopped by as we intertwined our lips, it was the colour of the sky and promises of a happy future. When you took my breath away asking me to marry you, it was the colour of the ocean below us and its reflection in my tears. 

After our first misunderstanding, because you thought I was lying to you, it was the colour of my bruises. As I sat for days and nights crying, it was the colour of the door I pleaded into. While you abused my body night after night, it was the colour of my numbness. When you asked me to cook for you over a call with a voice full of kindness, it was the last colour I saw when I switched on the stove.    

 Day 1 : Picture prompt

‘I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’

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