Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Memoirs of a Practising Physical Therapist

As a practicing physical therapist, everyday life brings before me an opportunity to meet new faces and a chance to probe deep into their lives. This is simultaneously enlightening as well as depressing. Sometimes, it is painful to hear the story of the hardships that people endure to lead normal lives, their pain, difficulties and disappointments become a part of my life for the days to come. Sometimes, the triumph of their spirit to conquer obstacles becomes an inspiration for me. Raka was one such who touched me forever.

She was ten years old and was the victim of a gruesome road accident, while returning from school one day. When she first came to my clinic, I could see that she was a hopeless case. Her limbs were paralyzed and there was very little chance to recovery. I was about to tell her parents who had accompanied her that there was nothing I could do for her, when I saw her tiny face smile with hope. I decided to give it a try.

As a Physical therapist I provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. My clan restores, maintains, and promotes overall fitness and health. Our patients include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.

I examined her medical histories and then measured Rakas’ strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function. I also had to determine her ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after injury or illness. Next, as a physical therapist, I had to develop treatment plans describing a treatment strategy, its purpose, and its anticipated outcome.

We started our sessions. I showed her exercises that would not be difficult for her to grasp. But I found that she could not do them. Despite the apparent inability, she was trying and trying harder than I thought she was capable of. I had to use electrical stimulation, hot packs or cold compresses, and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling. I also used traction, deep-tissue massage to relieve pain. There were sessions where I had to show her how to use a wheelchair.

All through the entire exercise, Raka smiled and tried hard. There were times when I was sure that we were losing and almost ready to give up, but she would always beam a brilliant smile and I knew that we could try harder

Six months later, Raka could walk on her feet again. As she took her first slow steps, I did not know who was happier, her parents or I. We had dinner at her place, where I saw photographs of her school. She had to quit school after that accident. Although, she took lessons at home, she longed to go back to school and be with her friends. It was tough for a ten year old to realize why her friends almost never came to visit her, or why she could not participate in their games, much as she wanted to.

One day Raka was strong enough to go back to school. I came to see her off that day. As she smiled gratefully at me and walked up to her bus, I knew that this tiny heart had more courage in her than an army of soldiers and that had made all the difference.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Home Alone

For the last two days I have been all alone at home, and since my lonely sojourn promises to last another two days, the unknown ghosts of the dark that threaten to break upon my reverie might as well gear up for action. Meanwhile, I stand prepared, my arsenal all set and ready to go!

First in the line of fire is the TV. I never had it so good. No more fighting over the remote, no more fidgeting over which TV channels are "not appropriate" and no more mutted gasps of disbelief at my amazing ability to change channels before the wink of an eye. I have been having a time of my life, waltzing away to the sound of the music when "my" favorite shows are on.

Hmmm….and then there is my computer. Spider Solitaire, my father's sworn enemy is no longer pursued surreptitiously. It makes a grand entrance and is welcome. My folks have declared it persona non grata. Who cares when they are not around.

The microwave comes next. It’s been long since I tried my now famous experiments with food churning out unmentionables that only I could eat in order to save my pride. Now between my stomach and me lies the dustbin and even if I’m left hungry I would not have to swallow my pride, there's always the friendly take-away outlet close to home.

For once, there will be no reprimands if my wardrobe resembles the remains of a robbed Egyptian Pyramid and if the table is not cleared and if the washing machine is over stacked with idonnowhats till it threatens to overturn.

But for once, there will be no Baba to take me home from the station at 9pm at night. The rough job will be mine and mine alone. For once, there will be no Ma fussing over how little I eat, even if it’s more than a truckload of eatables. For once there will be no parents to tell me to go to bed, because if I don't get enough sleep, I would not be able to wake early enough in the morning. For once, no one will run behind me with the food plate when I get late, or pick up the newspaper in the morning or give me breakfast.’s not good for me

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Once again i woke up late this morning! Had to rush with the trappings of the day and some extra work what with reviving my poor old battered mobile phone and emptying my bag of yesterday's remnants of samosa (yes yes yes, there are days when I don't find the time to eat) and finding clothes to put on -- its still a civilized country after all--- I got late as usual Rushed to the station to find out that my 7:32 had decided not to turn up at all today! You ditched me! You dumped me! 7:32 sniff ;-)) Got another train where we were packed like molecules-- I’ll change my mind about that. Even molecules get space to breathe. Somebody was singing 'Que sara sara' and I swayed to the rhythm of the train rocking along the lines, merrily skipping away without a care in the world. A group of girls were preparing for an exam and they seemed to find no trouble at all in that crowd. I clutched onto my bag for mercy. The woman standing next to me could have picked it. Thank God, at least this is the Ladies compartment. Yesterday, they conducted the 1st International Festival of non-verbal arts in the office grounds. It was fun watching very talented people from Ireland, Sweden, Japan, South Korea and India performing mimes, and songs and dances. There was a sitar recital. We left office late and I got back home really late! No regrets. Felt so refreshed after a long long time. Had a strange dream last night. Thought I saw that Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani were my neighbors. On a warm winter afternoon, we were strolling along the park and I was trying to get friendly with Anil's daughter who belonged to my school. They even asked me to help sort their crisis with Reliance Infocomm and Reliance Energy. Train got me to the station at a time, when I had to run for my life if I wanted to catch the bus. Got it! With some help from Santosh, who was on my train, but remember, I was in the ladies compartment. you are late yet again!!! Thought I saw that written on everybody's eyes. I can't understand, why I look so worried and scared when I get late. There are people who catch the bus at the eleventh hour everyday as a rule. Neither do they look paranoid nor does anybody question them. Beats me..... FM blaring loud in the bus. 'Dil Chahta Hain, kabhi naa beete chamkile din' my favorite movie after Anand. Haven't seen a better movie since then. At traffic junction a blind man was begging for money. Before I could fish out anything, the lights had turned green. Early in the morning, the city looks like a child who's just woken up and realized that there's a lot to do today, but he's still feeling sleepy. The bus rumbles on, I am yawning and trying my best to enjoy the remixes, but truth is that they are jarring.

Office office...loads of work, disgruntled boss, Anwesha Chatterjee, overworked and underpaid...Another day has just begun.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Wake up every morning and start the grind again. It’s been this way for the past nine months. A hasty breakfast and a long long journey after that. But thanks to Indian Railways, if the things could have been worse, they made it happen. I have trusted the infallibility of our trains so much that I know that my 7:32 train will never come before 7:45 and it never fails me. Seats? Did you talk of seats in the train? Whatever in the world are those? Here you will find sacks of homegrown vegetables trudging their way to the wholesale market proudly taking their place among seats meant for humans. And you find, fellow passengers who refuse to load their luggage in the cargo....the seats belong to the suitcases and the tomatoes and the flowers and the sacred unmentionable idonnowhats of this country. Meanwhile I stand....

And then my mind flies along with the train to the country side, taking along with it memories of the years gone by, the peals of laughter and the tears of joy, the pouts of disappointment and the frowns of frustration. I remember the train rides that I used to take as a child. Stations flying past me, each with its own story lost in the maze of people thronging to it every day. The jhalmuri and the pepsi, the potato chips and the hair clips..They’re all still there.....the balloons are still there...the stations stand testimony to the days that are past.

Only I have changed.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

After a While

After a while you learn the subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning and
Company doesn't mean security,

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats with your head
Up and your eyes open, with the grace of an adult,
Not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure . . .
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.And you learn and you learn . .