Sunday, May 07, 2017

Abode of the Clouds: Day 2: 3600 Stairs & the Living root bridges of Meghalaya

I was woken up by my Phone’s alarm at around 5:30 AM and it took me a couple of seconds to gather my whereabouts. Rarely do I wake up that early and this of course was a rare occasion. The chill in the morning air drove away the cobwebs of my sleep quickly and I got ready to head out on the Day 2 of our Meghalaya Trip. The plan was to hit the seven sisters falls first and then the Arwah caves before returning to the resort for breakfast. Gurjyot and Nikhil, 2 of my cottage mates opted to sleep in while the third one, Prathamesh joined me in heading out. Although the scheduled departure time was 6 AM, the resort grounds had a deserted look till around 6:30-6:45 when people started trickling in towards the bus. Once the bus was almost full, we started off and I breathed a sigh of relief – too soon. We had to stop again mid-way as two “Late Lateef”s decided to join us at the last minute. This unexpected break gave me a chance to click some macros while we waited. The latecomers were welcomed into the bus with a round of slow claps and the journey finally began in earnest.

First Stop – The Seven sisters falls. These are a group of seven streams of water falling off a cliff face into the valley. We had a great view of them from a nearby resort grounds. However, on that particular day, the sisters were feeling a bit shy and chose to hide themselves partially behind a veil of haze. Me and my ND filter felt let down and had to content with a few clicks of scenes around the resort grounds. The puzzling part is that, even with nothing much to see, it was a hell of a task to get people to board back into the bus to proceed to Arwah caves. Finally after much pleading and threatening, the group was back in the bus and we started moving again.

Arwah caves is a cave system featuring multiple tunnels, many passage ways and prehistoric fossils. One interesting feature about the way to Arwah caves was a choice – Relaxing walk vs Rigorous walk. As Robert Frost once put it,
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could”

My choice here was not difficult though – I had in my mind a much rigorous walk which I would need to take later in the afternoon. So for now, I chose the relaxing walk. In the Arwah cave system, there is a stream of water flowing through it and the sound of the flowing water along with the acoustics of the cave adds up to an awesome experience. There were multiple passageways to be explored- most of them ending up as dead ends or no entry boards. Still, exploring them was fun and before we knew, it was time to head back.

On reaching back to the resort, the main activity was to streamline the luggages for the downhill trek. All unwanted weight had to be shed as 3600 stairs would make you pay for each gram of weight you decided to take along. My experience with the Chennai Trekking Club had helped me plan ahead and travel as light as I possibly could. There was nothing I could leave back so I just took the time to sit and enjoy the scenery. Once everyone was satisfied that they had gotten to their lightest backpacks, we set off. Destination – Tyrna village, the base point for the downhill trek. On reaching there, the group of 52 were split into 4 groups of 13 each with a guide assigned to each group to take us down. With a mixed feeling of excitement and horror in my heart and a silent prayer on my lips, I began the descent.

The steps that took us downhill were built as a part of the MNREGA scheme. Solid concrete steps, sometimes a bit narrow but still a solid foothold. Sometimes they looked a bit steep and people among us who had a fear of heights faced a bit of difficulty negotiating them. After a few hundred steps, the muscles in my legs started complaining. After a few hundred more, they started cursing me. Periodic sips of orange flavoured glucose – a throwback to the good old CTC trek days kept me going till our first real halt – The Long root bridge, the longest living root bridge in existence.

The first thing that strikes you when you see a living root bridge is how harmonious it is with nature. You cannot make out where the tree ends and the bridge begins. For those who are not aware of this wondrous creation, let me brief you. These bridges are made from the living roots of rubber trees. When the roots are still pliable, they are guided across a river/crevice using steel cables or betel tree trunks. When these roots strengthen and stabilize, it forms a bridge across the expanse. This process takes about 15-20 years before the bridge is usable. Once the bridge is operational, it will in principle, last for many hundred years as long as the trees they are made from remain healthy. No one actually knows when this practice began. The earliest known mention about a root bridge was in 1844.

We rested our sore legs for a few minutes at the long root bridge. But the sun was about to set and for safety purpose, we needed to reach out campsite before dark. We had to stoke the dying embers of our stamina and resume the trek again to the sleepy village of Nongriat – The home of the double decker root bridges. About an hour later, sweat dripping from each and every pore, able to count the muscles in my leg just by the way how they were paining, I heard the victorious whoops of people who had already reached their destination. Few moments later, it came into view – The Double Decker bridges. There are a few moments in life where words fail you and you just stare wide eyed and gape jawed at the awesomeness in front of you. This was one of them. Two living root bridges and a mini waterfall in the stream leading to them. To borrow the words of a fellow traveler- Nijaguna, “What a time to be alive...”.

I didn’t waste any time before taking a dip in the cool waters of the stream. You could literally feel all the pain and tiredness being washed away along with the sweat and grime accumulated on your body during the trek. For that moment, everything was at peace. Once the darkness started creeping in, we left the falls behind and made our way to the campsite. A mini village made of tents and a welcome sign that I will always remember “ ChaloHoppo village welcomes you”. Tents were assigned quickly. My tent mate was a fellow Malayali – Abhishek. 

Once the bags were deposited in the tent, we made our way towards the Bonfire which was being setup at one end of our camping site. The sky was clear and the stars were starting to make an appearance. This felt like the perfect night for some star trail photography. Let me get into my briefing mode again. Star Trail photography involves tracing the movement of the stars across the sky due to the rotation of the earth. Although we had tree cover on all our sides, above the tree cover, the sky was clear and the stars were in full attendance. Out came the tripod and my trusty Nikon. The arrangements were made, some of the other photographically inclined travelers joined me and soon we had a mini forest of tripods with cameras on them all pointing towards the stars. I had to content with taking 12 shots with 5 min shutter speed each as these long exposure shots suck the lifeblood of your camera battery like a thirsty vampire. 

While we photographers were tracing star movements and identifying constellations, another group went to war around the camp fire. A dance war between 2 kingdoms – Maurya and Shaurya. I don’t have much details about it because by the time I made my way to the campfire, one of kingdoms seem to have forfeited the gory battle pursuing the dinner bell and the others were in discussion about how to get their hands on the promised spoils of war. My stomach led me to the dinner table and once the call of hunger was sated, we were back around the campfire. Soon the rigors of the day came home to roost and it was time to call it a night. I slept as soon as my head hit the pillow – My first night in a tent – beneath the stars. Another trek awaited us on the next day – Towards the Rainbow falls and its unearthly beauty. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Abode of the Clouds: Day 1 – KFC, Dumb charades and Sa-I-Mika

Day 0:

For pics: follow me on instagram: @nimishaardham or check out my facebook page.

 Let’s fast forward a bit. Woke up at 4 AM, Freshened up, checked in, caught the flight, slept for a bit again, watched few episodes of Bleach, landed in Guwahati…Phew. Guwahati, the gateway to the North East has a small yet crowded airport where photography is a strict no-no. I was waiting to get my luggage when someone called me from behind. They were my fellow travelers from Bangalore. First round of introductions done, luggage collected and out we headed into the great state of Assam. Known for its tea and silk, our first stop was meeting point oft mentioned in the Backpackers Meghalaya whatsapp group – Anand Tiffins. It looked like the only place where we could grab a bit near the airport and they made sure we paid a pretty buck to take that bite. Looked like a tea stall, priced like a star hotel, we had to content ourselves with a coffee from there as there was hardly any place to sit.

We spent some time thinking about what to do next, as our bus was to arrive at 10 and the last person was expected to land at 12 noon, it left us around 3 hours to kill. Finally the general consensus was to start walking from the airport and see where it takes us. It took us around 200 m from the airport to a mini food court which loudly called out to us - “Vaango!” Vaango was a vegetarian South Indian restaurant and had a quintessentially American Non vegetarian restaurant to accompany it – Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). When we entered the food court, we saw a pile of bags in one corner and a group of people sitting with bored faces. That clearly gave them away as being our fellow travelers. Another round of introductions went through and from whatever we got to hear, we were stuck in KFC for a pretty long haul. New faces kept joining us and we kept getting better acquainted. The group assembled in KFC was a pretty varied mix. Rather than the often seen, bored out of their skin IT guys going to North east to cool their heads, we had people from all walks of the life – Advocates, Architects, Doctors, Stylists, Technical Writers, Photography students, Chartered accountants and of course, IT professionals. Around 10:30 Am, we got to know that the girl who was supposed to land at 12 had missed her flight.  This got a mixed reception. We were sad for her but also relieved that we would finally get to see more of the North east apart from the Airport and the KFC joint. Then came the kick in the nuts – Couple more people were expected and they would land only at 12:30. This left us almost another 3 hours to negotiate. By the time the much expected flight nearly landed, people were sharing Instagram handles and making new BFFs. As someone in the group put it about the late comers, “The last time someone would have waited this anxiously for them might have been at the time of their birth”.

But, every wait has its end and the final couple finally made their way out of the airport and into the bus – and we were off. Out of the airport, into the warm, humid Guwahati. Soon we left Assam behind and made our way into the cooler greener state of Meghalaya. Along the way, I got to know how out of touch I was with today’s music scene. Everyone would be singing along to the song playing and I wouldn’t even have a clue as to whether the singer was male or female. After a quick stop for lunch, our first real halt was at the Umiam Lake. We were a bit late so we had to content ourselves with a long distance view of the lake. Once we left Umiam Lake, we had on the bus with us, Nishanth, one of the co-founders of ChaloHoppo – the co-organizers of this trip. He was a veritable treasure trove of snippets about the North East. His tales about the Headhunting tribes of Nagaland had me putting a visit to Nagaland in my bucket list. Soon a small group started playing 20 questions – with 20 being negotiable. This “20 questions” then turned into “ Heads Up” and then finally to good old Dumb charades. This had the whole bus joining in with the left side of the bus pitted against the right side in a battle for charades supremacy. The hardest part was getting people to count the words in a movie name correctly. Even though our team was lagging behind at one point, we came back and took a hard fought victory right as we entered into the Sai Mika resort.

Now, picture this. A sprawling compound dotted by cottages. A brisk chill in the air. A near full moon bathing the whole compound in milky light and sounds of guitars being played welcoming us to the Sa-I-Mika resort. Couldn’t have asked for a better welcome into Cherrapunjee. While we were waiting for the rooms to be assigned, we sat and listened to the local band playing – although I couldn’t recognize most of the songs, the passion with which they played and the ambience of the whole place made it a really memorable experience. After some confusion regarding the room allocation, which was quickly sorted out, we retired to our rooms to freshen up and get ready for dinner. My roommates were Nikhil – A fellow IT Guy from IBM, Gurjyot – Current E&Y, Ex-Nivea and still very brand loyal and Prathamesh – An Enginering student pursuing a diploma in Photography in parallel.

Dinner was served in the main hall and as earlier, the local band’s music accompanied it. Even though most of us were tired, no one wanted to go back to our rooms. The chill in the air, the bonfire and the music made for a heady combination and most of us sat around the fire, singing along till after midnight. Finally it was time to call it a night and the number in all our minds as we went to sleep was 3600 – the number of steps that we would need to climb down the next day.

Abode of the Clouds Day 0: Background

It all started when my oldest friend got a DSLR. Discussing photography with him and giving him tips on how to shoot got me thinking about my own dormant DSLR. It has been quite some time since it had gotten a good work out. It was time to start clicking again. With this in mind, I searched for active photowalk groups in Bangalore. I was already part of Bangalore Photowalk but it hadn’t been pretty active in the near past. My search made me come across another group Photowalk Bangalore and without hesitation; I joined their whatsapp group using the invite link. The group had pretty strict guidelines regarding what could be posted there. I was content with being a passive participant for now. Then one day, a group member posted about a 4 day trip to Meghalaya organized by Photographers of India. Poor guy got blasted by the group admin for posting links to events outside the photowalk Bangalore group. But that message sparked something in me.  Meghalaya – The abode of the clouds, the only thing I knew about that state is that it has the record for the highest rainfall ever recorded (courtesy: Standard VIII Geography text book). But somehow the name itself brought to mind a cool green paradise.

Next step was getting the necessary home office approvals. Getting the leaves would be comparatively easy but I felt that getting my better half to allow me a 5 day break from father and husband duties would take some doing.  That wasn’t the case to be. One evening, during some idle chit chat, I mentioned to her about this trip. The response was “You go ahead, if you want to go”. Although I couldn’t believe my ears at first, I took that was the green light and set about planning the logistics. The flights to and from Guwahati were the first on the list. Then the necessary formalities to be completed as instructed by the trip organizers, finally came the requisite shopping to be done for the essentials. It was time to dust off my trusty pair of Merrel shoes and get my photographers vest cleaned up.

Meanwhile Photographers of India (Instagram: @photographers.of.india) kept me updated via mails and the whatsapp group on what to expect from the trip. The description of the trip sent across excited me and at the same time scared my shoes off – Climb down 3600 steps? Really? Somehow I pushed it to the back of my mind and just focused on getting myself to Guwahati. This would be my first solo trip since my two week North Indian sojourn before my marriage.

My flight from Bangalore was at 5:55 AM on 13th April. There came the first choice to be made. What time should I get to the airport? Should I stay at home, get up at 2:00 AM, get ready and proceed to the airport by 3:00 AM? Would I be able to get cabs at that time in the night? Would I get enough sleep? Would I wake up on time? Another option was to leave home by 10:30, Reach the airport by around midnight, catch around 4 hours of sleep there, wake up, get freshened up and proceed with the boarding formalities. The more I thought about it, more sense the latter option made to me. I didn’t want to think too much so finally decided to go with Option 2. 13th night came; I was all packed and prepped up, saying my good byes. An Ola cab was waiting to take me to the airport. Being night time, it hardly took me 45 min to reach the sprawling Kempegowda International Airport, Bangalore. All that was left was to find a comfortable place to park myself and shut my eyes for a few hours before I could awake into the first day of a much awaited journey.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Does God Play Dice?

I am not an Atheist. Maybe an Agnostic but definitely not an Atheist. Now, before you jump down my throat, accusing me of spouting jargon right from the get go, let me explain what these terms mean. An Atheist is someone who denies the existence of God. An Agnostic is someone who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine. Something that has been troubling me amongst the religious beliefs is the professed existence of an omnipotent, omnipresent deity. That raises a lot of questions. If the deity is indeed omnipresent and omnipotent, why are all the bad things happening in the world? This simple question is answered via a myriad of justifications all to prove how the deity is infallible and can do no wrong. But what this basically boils down to is that the victims deserved their fate. This is often buddied up with an explanation of how Karma works. He/she must have done something in their lives to deserve what they got. Unsurprisingly, these are the kind of people who on reading news of a rape often holds the victim responsible for their fate. Moreover when they cannot find enough bad Karma to justify the fate of the victim, the search for past sins transcends to the past lives too. A 2 year old baby gets raped and somehow the justification that comes up is that maybe the sins of the past life are being balanced out – because the deity they pray to can do no wrong.

Recently Kerala witnessed one of the largest tragedies it has ever seen – the fireworks mishap at the Puttingal temple in Kollam District. Number of lost lives were 115 at the last count. This fireworks display was conducted against the explicit orders from the district collector. Now, in the days following the tragedy, while the whole state is still trying to wrap their heads around the magnitude of what happened, social media is getting inundated with various kinds of messages

  1.        Even after 115 people died and structural damage occurred to buildings within 1.5 km of the blast site, the temple itself was unharmed. Behold the power of the deity: Really? If you were to argue about the structural design of the temple and the architectural genius which enabled it to withstand the explosion of such a magnitude, that would hold more water. But when you argue that a deity which could not prevent the massive loss of life that happened right within the temple grounds was successful at self-preservation, are you arguing for or against the so called supreme power? If self-preservation is what the so called divine power values more than the lives of the people who come to pray, is it the right power to pray to? Referring back to what I wrote earlier, explanations will come up as to how each and every one of the 115 lost souls deserved what they got and the deity was absolutely right to let the tragedy happen.
  2. .       Video has come out of how the “Thidambu” – the ceremonial symbol of the deity itself fell to the ground when it was being hoisted on top of an elephant. The theory that goes along is that this was a bad omen sent by god and since people ignored this, they were clearing the path for the tragedy that was about to happen. Hence my original question – Does god play dice? Imagine a scene on a pantheon far above the mortal plane where gods have gathered and are putting wagers on whether or not the mere mortals will understand that the Thidambu falling down means a bloodbath is coming if you don’t act fast. The mortals didn’t – and the bloodbath followed. The gods who bet against the mortals seem to have made a literal killing. So when there are a 1001 ways how god could have intervened to stop this disaster from happening, what god chooses to do is to give mortals a hint and sit back and watch the plot unfold – Sorry. I don’t believe in such gods.

Now, don’t get an impression that I don’t believe in gods at all. I do. I don’t believe in gods who live in temples and showers blessings based on how much you spend at the temples. I don’t believe in gods who being supposedly all powerful, prefers to sit back and watch babies getting raped and innocent people blown to smithereens due to the negligence of a few. I don’t believe there is someone up in the sky watching us all taking stock of whether we pray.

To quote Einstein, “I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind”. God is unexplainable. We see god in the inexplicableness of the world around us. Also, I believe in “Thathwamasi” – meaning “That is you”. God exists within each one of us. Like Santiago in the novel “The Alchemist”, who travelled the world to realize that the treasure he was searching for was always present right where he slept, we go searching for god in temples and churches but seldom look inside ourselves. When you are in touch with the essence of god that is within each of us, god exists in your actions. A friend of mine once gave an auto driver Rs. 5000 blindly believing his story of his wife being admitted in a hospital and him being short of money. At that instant, the auto driver may have seen god in my friend. It is that god who exists within all of us and urges us to be more than ourselves that I believe in. To see that god, one needs to open their eyes. For people who pretend to be blind by closing their eyes, the divine glow that comes from within, maybe lost forever.  

Monday, November 02, 2015

Excuse Me... I need to vent..

Disclaimer – The following is an attempt to vent out all my frustrations that have been built up due to the recent events in the country. It might not make complete sense and it sure as hell is not going to be pretty. Anyone with fragile sensitivities please stop reading here. Primal scream is a sort of psychotherapy and I am attempting a written version of the same. Here it goes..

  1. Beef (be it cow, bull or buffalo): Hindus who eat beef – Good for you. Hindus who do not eat beef – Good for you too. I for one love my beef fry and before someone points it out, let me say, I also love my bacon cheeseburger. I do not support conducting beef festivals to specifically provoke the non- beef eaters. But I sure as hell will not entertain someone trying to impose their sensitivities on to my lunch plate. Wherever consumption of beef is banned by law, being an Indian, I will adhere to what the law of the land says. But where no ban exists, don’t you even dare come prodding into what I am eating in my own house or an establishment which offers me the choice of that delicacy. I will not look at your religion or the colour of your party flag before I kick you out. If your religious beliefs get hurt by me eating beef at my house – tough shit bro, learn to live with it.                                                                                       
  2. Arvind Kejriwal – Talk about disillusionment. When the Aam Aadmi Party was in its inception stage, I loved what they stood for. I sincerely hoped that they would bring about a much needed change in the Indian political arena. When they came to power in Delhi with an overwhelming majority, I hoped that this was the sign of things to come and now we would see the power of a common man. Then they went about proving to one and all that even they are after all, just another f***ing corrupt political party. Turns out even being the CM, Mr. Kejriwal is still in the opposition. When he was not the CM, he blamed the then-Delhi CM for the rapes happening in Delhi. Now that he is the CM, he blames the PM for it. Really? I remember reading one of his campaign promises about a commando squad in Delhi with sole directive of ensuring protection for women. Any clue where I can find them?                                                  
  3.       Media – There used to be a time when news channels actually telecast news. Now we are in the days of tabloid journalism. Biased, sensationalist and loud, we get opinions instead of news. In a mad scramble to break each news first, the TV channels are on the verge of another “Dewey defeats Trueman” fiasco. The quick fix recipe for sensationalist crap of the day seems to be – Take any issue, put a communal twist to it, bring in a panel of so called experts with their own biases, put an anchor who can cut sentences before they are completed and can shout louder than all these experts and let the show begin. When disasters and tragedies gets turned into hashtags, tears ought to be shed for the death of journalism.                                                          
  4. Intolerance – A barber beaten up because he cut hair on Tuesdays, A man lynched on the suspicion of him eating beef, a 4 year old girl beaten to death because she forgot to cover her head while eating and so many more such instances cropping up each day. Really? What’s happening to people? Why does one feel the need to become violent in the name of their beliefs? Which god gives them the right to shed another man’s blood or extinguish another human life? If your beliefs and my beliefs don’t match, and I am strong enough to beat you up, does that make me right? The rising intolerance is like a ticking time bomb. You never know what will set it off. But when it does, we will no longer be able to use the word “secular” while describing our country.                                                                                                                     
  5. Politics – The only job where you do not require any educational qualifications or even the basic civil qualifications. If all candidates with criminal cases against them are barred from politics, we would be left with an empty parliament. Bunch of corrupt greedy bastards sucking the marrow out of the country’s bones. When you can make a scam out of even the coffins for dead soldiers, there is no level that you will not stoop to. An honest politician is an oxymoron. I see no hope in the near future of any sort of improvement in the country’s political scenario. I really wish India had some sort of “separation between church and state” thing in place so that 2 biggest poisons known to men – Religion and Politics would not intermingle to create an even more deadly one. But if wishes were horses, beggars would fly. So all I can do is vent it out here.

 Aaaaaarrghhhh…. I’m done. For now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 3: Of the Mother and her Moods..

This post is intended for male readers only. Female readers, feel free to stop reading here.

So boys, consider this a heads up for the time when your better half is expecting. Pregnancy is a minefield. All the hormones flooding her body turns your wife into an emotional wreck and her moods swing more times than a pendulum in a grandfather clock.

You would think that everything is going fine and then one innocuous comment and BOOM.. everything blows up in your face. Like I said, a minefield. But each husband has to navigate the minefield on his own. The positions and triggers of the mines might vary from wife to wife. What I am jotting down here are just templates based on which you may try to develop your navigation strategy.

1.       Cravings: This is an inseparable part of pregnancy. You can never predict what she would crave and at what time. Old Malayalam movies have led us to believe that a pregnant woman would crave raw mangoes or tamarind. Let me tell you at least in my case, that is basically bollocks. So don’t go stocking up on raw mangoes once you get a positive pregnancy test. You are more likely to be hit with a “Ben & Jerry’s Rocky Road Ice cream” craving at 12 in the night like Preity Zinta has in “Salaam Namaste”. There are basically 3 ways to deal with such demands.

a.       The Absentee Husband: Make it clear from the get go that she need not expect anything from you. Basically as if you were not there at all. I would not recommend this option at all as this would lead to escalation of emotional states which you want to avoid during the pregnancy. If you are opting for the absentee husband route, make sure you are actually an absentee husband, like if you are geographically separated during the duration of the pregnancy. Otherwise, try this at your own risk
b.      The Tautologist: In logic, tautology is a formula which is true in every possible interpretation. This approach would involve saying “Yes” to all her demands, however outlandish or inconvenient they may be. This will keep you in the good books of your wife and prevent any emotional outbursts (atleast on this count). But the risk in running this approach is the ever escalating expectation threshold. With each outlandish demand you meet, chances are that the next one is even more outlandish. So be aware and know what is set to come your way when you want to be the Tautologist.
c.       The Middle Pather: This is an approach that requires a certain finesse. Your married life prior to the pregnancy should serve as your guide while walking the middle path. In this approach, you basically say yes to her cravings as long as they are doable without much inconvenience. This way, you stock some ammunition for the time when an inconvenient demand comes through. For e.g, you might just be thinking of putting your feet up and relaxing for a bit after a hectic day and a heavy dinner when she might suddenly want to have some ghee laddoos. That’s when you tell her no and to the inevitable complaint that you never meet her demands, you list down all the times you have said yes. Handled correctly, it will keep emotions from acting out and you would have expertly diffused a dangerous landmine.

2.       Temper Tantrums: With the hormone world cup going on in her body, she is bound to lose her temper at times. What you need to do is to ride it out without you losing your own. I admit I have been unsuccessful at it during the initial stages but after a couple of shout-a-thons, I learned how to control myself. The key is not not to lose your temper but not to lose it in front of her. Two lost tempers would resonate like sound waves and produce a whole that is more than sum of its parts. Listen to her with a smile on your face, offer some words of consolation, go to the other room, punch a hole in the wall and return to her with the same smile on your face. Your fists might hurt but believe me, that is a far better option than engaging in a shouting match. You not only aggravate the mother but it also affects the child in the womb.

3.       Sting in the tail: Finally the baby arrives and you breathe a sigh of relief. But beware of the nasty sting in the tail called antenatal depression. With the baby out of her body and the hormones still going hammer and tongs, some bouts of depression are bound to happen. Whether it be regarding her self-image, ability to take care of the baby or just control of day to day happenings, anything might throw her off. Your role to play at that time is of a cheerleader, agony aunt and a best friend. Reassure her that there is nothing wrong with her and the changes happening in her body are just temporary. Reiterate that nothing that is happening will ever change the way you feel towards her. Support her at times when she feels helpless and cheer her up when she is at the verge of tears.

The pregnancy is a roller coaster ride for the woman involved. Some part of the unpredictability, anxiety and frustration gets passed on to the husband too. How smooth the 9 months or so are depends on how you are equipped to handle the unexpected. With the above mentioned tips, I hope you are better off than starting from scratch. Whichever way you handle it, just make sure to be there for your better half come what may, because what you see in front of you is just the start of a journey that will change your life forever.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 2: Google-itis

Since Larry Page and Sergey Brin rolled out Google in 1998, the unknowns in the world have shrunk drastically. “Google”, which started as a noun has since then been promoted to a verb and the whole host of techies have taken to the verb in a way that a baby duck takes to swimming.

Google has become the omnipotent – provider of all. Whether it is pirated mp3s of the latest Bollywood flick, DVDrip of the latest Hollywood blockbuster or definitions of complex medical terms like bilateral renal pelvic displacia, google knows just where to find them.

What this has accomplished is that everyone with an access to an internet connection and working knowledge of any browser has turned into a self-taught doctor. Rather than what the actual doctor says, people have now started believing the links that Google dishes out.

The one ritual after we got each of the scan report was to come home and religiously google each of the terms in the report. Who cares that the Doctor told everything was normal? We wanted to have Google’s opinion of the same. First couple of times, this exercise went off without any red flags getting raised. Then came the anomaly scan report.

In the anomaly scan report; there was a mention of mild bilateral renal pelvic displacia. During the scan, the Doc performing the scan had certified that everything looks good and there are no issues. But later, while taking a second opinion from Dr.Google, we found that the meaning of mild bilateral renal pelvic displacia is that the baby’s kidneys are larger than they should be. Cue Panic. On further consultation with other webpages referred to by Dr.Google, we came to know that the kidneys should be only around 4.5 mm while in our case it was 4.7 mm. one fifth of a millimeter was proving to be the cause of concern.

There comes another question. Who decides what is normal? In an age where we didn’t have machines which could measure a yet to be born baby’s kidney up to one tenth of a millimeter, didn’t people have babies? What if the baby has larger than average kidneys? The term average itself denotes that there has to be values more than the said number. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be the average. So who says a 4.7 mm kidney is abnormal while a 4.5 mm one is not? It seems to be with more knowledge man gains, instead of getting more answers; he is faced with more questions.

Anyways, this mild state of panic continued till the next scan, where it was certified that the kidneys are now of regulation length and are well within the “normal” range.

Fast forward 3-4 months. My wife spent her maternity leave at home, in Kerala, waiting for the young one to arrive. In Kerala, we had opted to consult Dr. Prameela Philip at Poyanil Hospital, Kozhencherry. During the first scan conducted there, my wife, with all the knowledge gained from Google, asked the doctor about the amniotic fluid level. With what could have been an amused smile, the doctor replied “ Aavashyathinu undu” meaning there is enough. The succinctly worded message within her response that I could decipher was, “Leave the medical worries to us doctors. You just do what we tell you to do”.

In the world where all kinds of information are available at a mere touch of your finger, if only that were possible.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - Chapter 1: 2 Little lines.

2 Little lines. A “C” under one and a “T” under the other. That’s how it began. Initial jubilation turned into hesitation. What if it was a false positive? Another couple of rounds of “pee on the stick” put that doubt to rest. Yep. Definitely pregnant. First major decision. Which doctor do we consult? Most of the well-known gynecs in Bangalore have waiting times stretching above 2 hrs. And that is when you already have a confirmed appointment. Good luck trying to get through via a walk-in. Better bring your lunch with you.
One argument was that if everything went normal, we do not need an expert Gynecologist to see it through. My policy was, as the saying goes, “Better to have and want not rather than want and have not”. Thus we decided to go with the best in the business, Dr. Praveena Shenoi at Cloud 9, Old Airport Road. After a couple of walk in wait-a-thons, with my wife constantly reminding me that if we had gone with some other doctor, we could have reached back home by then, we succeeded in getting a confirmed appointment for the third visit. The trick was to book the next appointment as soon as you came out of your current consultation.
An array of tests and an ultra-sound scan later - nothing to report, which is actually good news when it comes to pregnancy.

Still, for the first 3 months, each bump in the road, each pothole that the car ran into, was a source of a minor heart attack. Every twinge of pain in the stomach/abdomen area raised the heartbeats. It is said that around 85% of miscarriages happen within the first trimester. And when you have already had one, the worry gets multiplied manifold the second time.

It doesn’t mean that once you cross three months, all worries are lifted and everything is hunky-dory. The cycle I found during this time is, Tension before the scanà No issues in the scan report à Jubilation and reliefà Tension before the next scan.

So basically, you are worried about a scan basically all the time, and you have an array of scans to go through too, Ultra Sound, NT, Anomaly, Interval Growth and so on. All you can do is keep calm and cross all your fingers and toes that nothing abnormal comes up in the scan reports. But even with all that, the worrying becomes an integral part of your wait for the baby. Or maybe life is just preparing you for the lifetime of worrying that lies ahead.