A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

Appearance isn’t something we can alter. It is the distinctiveness with which we were born. If all of us were good-looking the word “beauty” would lose its significance. The sooner we accept how we look, the better we would feel about ourselves.

Still, all this insight didn’t stop people from deciding that they had the right to voice out their judgment about my figure. And as much I tried to ignore the rude observations, it was hard. There were only so many times I could pretend to disregard such remarks before I began to believe in them. The opinion I had of myself started deteriorating. The disapproving looks my father threw my way when I ate too much, the cool clothes that weren’t available in my size and the chairs that creaked when I sat down didn’t help either.
In my second year of college, we used to have soft skill sessions conducted by CIR (Corporate Industry Relations) every week to help us with placements. In one of those sessions our instructor made all the thirty-five of us pin a blank paper to our backs. Every one of us had to write what we understood about the other thirty-four on their respective backs. The idea was that we could get to know the kind of personality we projected. And since all the comments would be anonymous, we would neither be able to blame nor thank a person for their respective positive and negative comments.
Once we finished the activity, I impatiently unpinned the paper and read through it. A lot of my classmates found me kind, friendly and laidback. But I ignored all of this as my mind zoned into that one remark that was scrawled in the middle of the paper in black ink.
“You need to reduce your weight.”
I immediately saw red. My eyes began to burn and I was surprised when my cheeks became wet. I would like to say that I was stronger than that. That I was beyond letting an anonymous remark upset me. Nevertheless, that’s what happened. It was one of the minor turning points in my life.
Losing weight is more simple than what one might think. All I had to do was burn more calories than what I consumed. A combination of hitting the gym for an hour every day and eating healthy worked beautifully. I also had to drink around 3 litres of water in a day to both keep my stomach clean and help my skin combat all the workout I was doing. Cardio is one of the quickest ways to lose weight. The beginning was the hard part. I would go to the gym every day continuously for a week only to realize that by the end of the week I hadn’t even lost half a kg. The one thing that nearly broke my decision was the self-control I had to exercise when it came to food. I wasn’t a binge-eater by any chance. But there’s nothing like good old ice-cream to make me feel better at the end of a bad day. Eventually though, all my hard work and determination paid off. By the end of the third week or so I gradually started losing all the extra fat. I felt nothing less than euphoric when I noticed that I had lost almost 5 kilograms. I was so ecstatic that I decided to push harder. And that became my routine for the next 5 months. Today, around 20 kilograms lighter I’ve never felt more self-assured of myself. My self-confidence has increased tenfold and it feels liberating to tell the world my story. In addition, I also seem to have lost my insecurities along the way. Also I don’t give a second thought to what people think of me anymore.
The purpose of my writing this blog isn’t so I would gain sympathy or pity from my readers. As trifling as my story is, if it ends up inspiring one or two of you, my purpose is served. For those of you who are uncertain about the way you look, go ahead and work towards what you want. Whether it is losing weight, gaining a few curves or adding a glow to your skin, nothing is out of your reach. And for the rest of you who are both confident and comfortable in your own shoes, I have nothing but respect. Self-confidence in a person is an admirable quality.
Lastly I’m grateful to the person who wrote the remark on my back. Your opinion was of great assistance to me in discovering the optimism and determination I never knew I had. I can only hope that you find yours as well. Until my next blog entry, Goodbye!
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AN AMRITIAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE

So being new to WordPress, I wanted to begin with a simple yet effective post. Something that even if not all, most of my audience could connect with. As I was perusing the different ideas that were running through my head, I struck gold. What better to write about than a typical survivalist guide for an engineering student. Life at Amrita can be fun but there are certain instances when everything becomes a little too chaotic and complicated to handle. Having successfully worked my way through almost three years at Amrita, I’d like to think I’m entitled to write this post. Having in mind that each of us are different, I’ve filtered my thoughts down to these few life hacks one simply must know.

BE A MORE SOCIAL PERSON

As we all know, Amrita is known for its diversity and colour. It is a blend of Keralites, Tamilians and Andhraites with a sprinkling of north Indians. Each and every student is singular, with his/ her difference in opinion and understanding. In such a place as this, it is essential you keep an open mind and do not let your insecurities inhibit you. You never really know who you may find a good friend in. More often than not, I find that every new person I meet has at least one thing in common with me. It is easier to build a good relationship once I figure out what that is.  So don’t confine yourself to the people whom you already know. Smile often, wave when you see someone you know, strike up a conversation, meet mutual friends and hang out in groups. A good social life goes a long way in easing an otherwise tiring life.

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EXPERIENCE THE CAMPUS

Though a few of us would be the tiniest bit reluctant to accept it, the truth remains that Amrita sports a beautiful campus. It was definitely one of the main reasons your parents fell in love with the University. And admit it, you’re a little bit in love with it yourself. Although right now it seems as if the sun is taking its long-lost revenge on Ettimadai, the weather at all other times is predictably pleasant. What more, resting at the foothills of the Western Ghats, the campus dressed in its early monsoon showers is a breath-taking sight. It makes a seamless setting for a peaceful jog in the morning or a lazy stroll in the evening. You can quickly swallow up a few of those chapters that you found uninteresting in a quiet spot under the canopy of trees. And If you are keen enough, you can certainly find the numerous romantic corners in the campus to spend time with your special someone.

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ORGANIZE YOUR ACADEMIC LIFE

Being that the university follows a continuous evaluation system, on any given day we are undoubtedly filled with assignments, tutorials and such. Whether or not you actually like the course that you are pursuing, life becomes easier once you accept it. Compartmentalizing your day, allowing substantial time for studies and coursework doesn’t just help you in the long run but also leaves you with more free time than what you may need. Listening and taking regular notes in class surely helps. That way the subject wouldn’t seem alien to you when you begin prepping for your semester exams and the result would be much better than what you end up with by just cramming in the eleventh hour (writing from personal experience). Though most of us including myself do not follow it, using a planner (the ones in your smartphones would more than suffice) helps you keep updated and doesn’t let you forget anything important.

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So that’s enough preaching for one day. Moving on.

HABITUATE YOURSELF TO LIVING IN THE HOSTEL

You may have many complaints about tuning yourself to life at hostel, but ultimately it comes down to this- you get more freedom than what you are accustomed to at home. For most of us, that is one definite advantage. Everything else can be overlooked. And the free Wi-Fi doesn’t hurt either

At school there’s this typical gang of best friends that you are always seen with. But the difference is that you don’t have to put up with them at home too, you don’t share a room with them and you most definitely do not see them walking around half-naked. When you see a person round the clock, you realize they aren’t as perfect as they seem to be. Trust me, girls’ hostel rooms have seen a lot more drama than anywhere else with the sole exception of Tamil TV Serials. The best you can do is not involve yourself too much into other people’s lives. Be helpful, friendly but know when to extricate yourself from a situation that you know isn’t for you.

Also by now, you must have grown accustomed to the mess food, but Tuesday night dinners are a definite NO. So it’s either cooking Maggi with your friends in the room (make sure to lock it up because you never know when the warden could confiscate your kettle) or waiting in a long queue for the utterly delicious ghee roast in the canteen.

DISCOVER YOUR TALENTS

In a university as busy as amrita, you get a large platform to exhibit your existing talents and more than enough chances to nurture your nascent ones. With annual technical and cultural fests, you can keep your time in amrita alive and interesting. There are also a lot of sports and athletics you can participate in. Trust me, representing your college at a higher level, even if you don’t win is surprisingly satiating. It isn’t necessary that you must always partake. Being an audience to all the different forms of dances, that one beautiful voice that makes the hair on your skin stand and all the characters that come alive is just as much fun, if not more. What I’m trying to say is with all the time that is in your hands, keep yourself occupied. Don’t let yourself get bored.

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 Okay! Having done with all the major ones, there are a few minor yet significant ones you cannot forget-

  • Carry your headset with you, because you never know when you may get bored or frustrated.
  • When you decide to use your phone under the desk, don’t look straight into the screen, give it an angle. (valuable advice from a friend of mine who’s an expert at gaming under his desk).
  • Always keep your room, and occasionally your college bag stocked with food.
  • Go swimming once in a while (yes, there’s a beautiful pool just behind the library.)
  • There are many spots besides Brookefields and funmall (Isha Yoga centre, Malampuzha dam, Kovai kuttralam and much more) where you can spend your weekend. So grab your day-scholar friends and take that long drive.
  • Ladies, there are a lot of cute guys around. Be careful!
  • Oh and don’t forget your junction box.
  • Finally, use up all the extra holidays, book your tickets and enjoy an occasional
  • trip home.

Those of you who have had the patience to reach the end of my post, you have my gratitude. Until my next one, ciao!

A Brick In The Wall

A sudden flash of white light blinded my eyes. It was so extremely bright that my head hurt. I blinked. Or at least I tried to. But my eyelids stayed in place, unmoving, almost as if they were taped to my eyebrows. Gradually, my eyes grew accustomed to the light and I could see colours in place of white, I could see the fan whirling, hanging from the roof above me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a woman leaning on the wall. She was short with long, greying hair. I strained my eyes to get a clear look at her. She was wearing an indigo coloured saree and a depressed expression on her face. The eyes that usually lit up with love and laughter were now filled with impending tears. I reminisced her kind and handsome features that were now concealed beneath the frown that marred her face. I’ve missed her, I realized. I’ve missed my mother.

Abruptly, she turned to look at me and as she blinked back her tears, her unhappy expression slowly morphed into a surprised one. She dazedly stared at me for a few moments before letting out an ear-piercing cry.

“She’s awake!”, she yelled as she rushed to my side.

Had I been asleep all this time? As her face loomed over mine, I wanted to relieve her of whatever it was that had been bothering her. My mother is a fierce woman, determined to protect what was hers. But under her strong demeanour, she was essentially sensitive and fragile. One would never gather this unless one was close enough. I opened my mouth to tell her that everything was okay. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I heard the door burst open. Through the periphery of my eyes, I could see my father hurrying inside, followed by my brother. I struggled to shift my gaze back and forth between the two of them as I tried to figure out why they were both sporting identical expressions of despair.

My dad walked toward me and looked into my eyes.

“Are you awake, kannamma? Talk to me.”

My heart wrenched when I heard his voice, I had never seen my dad this upset. I wanted so badly to tell him that I was okay. Only I couldn’t get my lips to move. What was wrong with me? A feeling of unease started to set in.

My mom slowly moved to sit next to me on my bed. My bed? That was why the fan was the first thing I had seen. I had been lying down all this time. Beds always provided me with relaxation. No other feeling could possibly compete with that moment when my body hit the bed after a long and tiring day. Unexpectedly, I couldn’t find that comfort this time. I was then alarmed to discover that I couldn’t feel the mattress at all. It was almost like I was floating in air, only I couldn’t feel the soft whisper of the wind against my skin either. I looked at my mom again who now had her palm on my cheek trying to offer me some sort of comfort. But it did nothing to ease my panic. I wanted to both scream at the top of my voice and burst out crying at the same time. I wanted to throw my arms around my mother and beg for help. I felt absolutely helpless. What in the world was happening to me?

The door opened yet again. This time, a man I didn’t recognize walked into my line of sight. He was in scrubs, a stethoscope hanging around his neck. A doctor? And then, I took note of the distinctive smell of disinfectant that could only belong to one place. Oh my god! I was in a hospital.

And suddenly, memories of what happened hit the centre of my consciousness like a speeding bullet. Greenday blasting in my ears as I was driving. The unexpected turn taken by the Innova. The sudden flare of lights as the huge car accelerated towards me. The fear and horror that engulfed my heart.

The dormancy that took over my brain. The crash, the pain and lastly the blood. And then it had all gone black. The next thing I knew I had woken up here, in the hospital unable to feel anything.

The doctor brought his index finger up to my eyes and slowly moved it right to left. My eyes tried to followed the movement. Then he tapped my knees. I flinched. Or that’s what I thought I did but my body didn’t cooperate. He took out my file and after looking it over, he faced my parents with a look of finality.

“As you already know, we’ve been providing Ms. Kumar with intensive therapy that was directed towards preservation and restoration of her neuronal function.”

“Yes, yes” my parents nodded in unison urging the doctor to go on.

“Well, the treatment was unsuccessful.”

“So what’s next?” my father’s voice was a paradoxical mixture of dread and hope.

The doctor’s expression became apologetic as he bent his head down, pretending to study the file he held. He shook his head, his expression turning decisive as he looked back up at my dad.

“She’s brain dead.”

What? I heard my brother gasp and my mother let out a high-pitched wail. My father stood stone-faced, his unwavering stare directed toward the doctor.

The doctor spoke again. It was almost as if he couldn’t wait for us to digest what he had said before he delivered the next blow.

“Time of death – 15.04.16, 16:32 hours.”

No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. I was right there. I could see and hear everything the doctor had said. I couldn’t be brain dead! I panicked and did what always did to calm myself down. I counted in my head. There! How can a person who was brain dead count? Was the doctor a moron?

My mental turmoil didn’t stop even as I saw my mother collapse down in a puddle of tears, my brother supporting her. I wanted to reach out to her. to let her know I was alive and with her. I wanted to get down on my knees and wipe away her tears. But I couldn’t. God help me, I couldn’t do anything. I think I cried. But I wasn’t sure because I wouldn’t be able to feel my own tears anyway. And then it occurred to me. I was probably paralyzed! Certainly not brain dead. Now, how do I make the doctor understand? I willed him to look down at the test results again, to realize that he had made an error. But he didn’t.

My father finally came down from his trance to ask the doctor- “She isn’t dead. She’s right there. Breathing!”

“Only with the help of a ventilator. She will stop breathing the moment it is removed.”

“Wh..what? How are you sure? She could still be in there.” My dad stuttered.

“I’m sorry sir. But she isn’t. She’s both unconscious and unresponsive. Her brainstem reflexes are absent. Right now, even her organs are being kept in working condition only with the help of the ventilator.”

Dad had grown silent. My dad, who always knew the right thing to say, even at the oddest of situations was finally out of words. Dumbstruck. Like he had given up. The agony grew into a living, burning thing

in the pit of my stomach. How was I going to save myself? More importantly how in the world was I going to ease the pain that my parents were feeling? I looked at them. All three of them were holding onto each other as if each of them drawing strength from the other two. I wasn’t even worried about myself anymore. I wouldn’t wish this situation even on my worst of enemies.

And then, the doctor delivered the final and ultimate blow.

“I need to talk to you about donating her organs. Keeping her on the ventilator isn’t a viable option any longer since we already know that she is brain dead. And that is same as pronouncing her legally dead. I’ll leave you now so you can think about it.”

My mom let out another wail and tugged at my dad’s sleeve.

“I won’t let them take her off the ventilator. I won’t!” she all but screamed. “she’s my daughter! I won’t let her die.”

Meanwhile, I don’t know what changed. But I was starting to accept the situation. Really, what else could I do? I couldn’t even wipe my own snort. I laughed (mentally). I could hear my family discussing about what they were going to do with me. Debating my fate as if I couldn’t hear every single word that they uttered. So I did what I normally do when they got on my nerves. I zoned them out. I was almost 20. Twenty years of life gone to waste. In another day or two, it would almost be as if I had never lived. Every single incident in my life would turn into a memory. A memory that will eventually fade. Fade into a framed picture hanging on the wall. I had been doing my final year in English literature. Had I hit that monstrosity of a car a month later, I would have graduated. But now, I didn’t even get that. I hadn’t done anything in life that was worth remembering. I had been good at many things, but had never excelled at something in particular. I wish I had. God, I had wasted my life away, having done nothing substantial. All the hopes and dreams I had saved for the future were now reduced to dust. What I wouldn’t give for all this to be but an ugly nightmare!

Would my friends miss me? Would my relatives? I didn’t know. Sure they would be upset. But for how long? And if all this wasn’t upsetting enough, another thought occurred to me. I will never get to experience married life. I will never be pregnant. Never have the honour of being a mother, watching my child grow, teaching him the first things about life. I will never grow old with my family.

Alright! I didn’t need to distress myself in my last few moments of life. I made my mind take a path along all my happy memories. Walking hand in hand with mother, lying down on my father’s lap as he brushed my hair with all his love, the loving battles between me and my brother, first day at school, first day at college, discovering my love for literature, my best friends, that cute boy I had a crush on, all the happy, sad and embarrassing moments ran through my head one by one. I felt as if my entire life was a photo album that I was looking through.

After what felt like an eternity, I heard the doctor come back.

“Have you decided?”

My parents nodded. My mother’s loud cries had reduced to silent tears. My father was shaking as he supported my mother, his bespectacled eye red. My brother was standing in a corner, silent and in shock. He had always had a strong heart.

“Are you willing to donate her organs?”

Another nod.

“Then I suggest you say your goodbyes.”

All three of them came toward me. My mother came up to kiss my forehead and my father clenched my hand, except I couldn’t feel either of those things. My brother sat on the foot of my bed, his eyes finally tearing up. They stayed that way for a long time. An hour? Two? I couldn’t fathom. I think I felt at peace. I’m not sure. I was certainly not happy. But it was a good way to go. Surrounded by the three people that I loved most in the world. So what if I hadn’t done anything that the world would remember me for? I realized that I was perfectly at peace with living in the memories and thoughts of my family. They were the only ones who mattered.

I heard the doctor walking up to my bed. I heard him press a few buttons. My mom started shaking and my dad turned around. My brother clenched his eyes shut. In my head, I told each one of them that I loved them. I expected to feel pain as the ventilator shut down. But I didn’t. I just felt tired. It was as if all my thoughts and feelings were sucked into a bottomless wormhole. Everything became clouded before the whole world turned dark. The last thing I heard was the soft words that my mom uttered.

“We love you.”

I felt content.