I read a hilarious blog post on my college senior’s blog, about a rickshaw puller’s unwanted fatherhood looming large in his near future and his hopes of being the local do-gooder by donating sperms to his childless sister-in-law! As bizarre as his family dynamics sound, such preposterous encounters are more common than you think. The post reminded me of a similar incident in March when I was posted in a God-forsaken remote village in Kamrup under the NRHM scheme.
The Setting: Last autumn I found myself standing precariously on a boat of questionable strength and crossing a river to get to my work place. The official quarters I was allotted had a rickety roof populated by giant owls that did a midnight jig right over my bed, and doors that refused to be bound down by locks. Add to that electricity with a mind of its own and patients that seemed (to me, at least) to leap out of bushes at 1am to shout out loud about babies about to pop out (which is a valid emergency) or a back itch/wrist pain that is suddenly unbearable (seriously?WTF!)! 
There were good moments, in the calm and undisturbed country side where people still danced to 90s film music, and newspapers were shared among ten households. Cars were a rare sight, so was Maggi noodles. Strangers stopped you midway and ask where you were going and where you were coming from, that’s the sole conversation-starter. It felt refreshing to be cut off from all the noise and the polluted air and the need to stay connected; but the sameness got on my nerves after a while. 
There are only so many beautiful sunrises you can marvel at after umpteen sleepless nights of delivering 4kg babies of petite seventeen year old mothers, who on repeated questioning admits to being a recent teenager! My mind went reeling at such shocking disclosures and my attempts to educate them on the proper age for childbearing or use of contraception only turned them hostile. They fretted over girls who remain unmarried at the ripe old age of fifteen; ‘such burdens’, they lament. The unfortunate girls who failed to strike a matrimonial alliance by the time they had turned seventeen were married off to old widowers or became the second/third wife of pot-bellied men older than their fathers. The women look old; they look fifty when they are twenty. They asked me if my kids were in school, considering these women turn grandmothers before hitting thirty! I didn’t want to shock them out of a decade’s growth that I’m 26 year old and unmarried, so I tell them that my kids are studying in the sixth standard and they feel satisfied at the familial progress of my life.  They breed like rabbits. Half of their lives are spent with a pregnant belly. Contraception is a dirty word; and as one husband, who had brought his wife for a third abortion, sagely put it, “We can’t deny what God gives us“. But they don’t hesitate to kill it when it had just started to sprout limbs! The women with bulging bellies stand at the threshold coyly, a baby at their breast and a trail of toddlers chewing peanuts and rubbing noses on their mothers’ sari. It’s surreal; these people, these lives, this place.
The INCIDENT: A blind man of eighty came to the health center towards the end of OPD hours. He was escorted by his wife who looked haggard. The man had a luxurious and flowing white beard and reminded me of Father Christmas, and in this case he happened to wear a blue checkered ‘lungi‘ (as absurd as it sounds!). He was reluctant to state his complaint and instead smiled creepily, almost lecherously. It disturbed me and I turned to his wife, but she looked too defeated to answer. It was two in the afternoon and a sumptuous lunch awaited me, so I conveyed my urgency to go home. The nurse who had come to close the windows in my room scolded the old man for his reluctance.
After much dawdling, the man said “Baideu, mur ‘sexy’ eke bare nai.” (Translation: Sister, my ‘sexy’ isn’t there at all)!!! What on earth was that? I went through stages of disbelief, facepalm, more disbelief, trying to maintain a straight face, furtive looks exchanged with the nurse who was equally dumbfounded; all in that single second when time stood still. Suddenly I could no longer face the man even though he couldn’t see me; because it was difficult to fathom why this eighty-year old Father Christmas look-alike had walked five miles to this remote hospital to complain about a dwindling sex life! To my utter embarrassment, his wife’s indifference and the nurse’s delight, he began to boast of the sexual prowess of his heydays and how he had managed to impregnate his wife ten times and even the first time they did it! I wished I had left for home earlier. I stopped his monologue and asked him his medical history. He didn’t have any major problems, and reports of a routine health check-up done at his grandson’s (!!!) insistence a few months ago were within normal limits.
The dilemma that I faced now was what medicine to prescribe; I was at sea when it came to such ailments. The only topics taught by the visibly embarrassed professor during my undergrad days were the causes and diagnosis of erectile dysfunction and the side-effects of sildenafil. That’s it! I didn’t even know of the availability of any medicine apart from Viagra. So, I jotted down sildenafil (quite certain that it won’t be available in this remote corner and he had to source it from Guwahati) and the lowest possible starting dose (25mg) and when to take it, which posed another problem because I just couldn’t bring myself to say out aloud the sentence ‘Take it an hour before you have sex’ to a man older than my grandfather. The nurse helped in conveying the directions. Thank God for that. 
I went back to my official quarters which was just a stone’s throw away, glad that the ordeal was over. I had just sat down to lunch when there was a knock on my door; it was the boy who ran the local pharmacy and the Father Christmaslurking behind him! He had come to inform that they had the tablets “Dr.X”(What a name! What a name!) in stock and was it okay if he gave them to the old man. I turned crimson, looked at the composition (sildenafil) and mumbled yes. The old man looked ecstatic. His wife cowered in fear about what awaited her at home!

In retrospective the incident is hilarious but in that moment I wished I was anywhere on earth but there. To my dismay and the pharmacist’s delight, the word spread among the circle of old men in the village and Dr.X’s sales sky-rocketed.

I am still recovering from the shock of such incidents.

Quirky me…

1.Sometimes I repeat stuff four times or in multiples of four. Say a prayer four times, leave four missed calls if the person I’m calling up is unreachable at the moment, take four deep breaths when I’m stressed, and even count till four while I pee! I like think it’s just one of my quirks. Doctors call it “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” though.

2.Organizational freak. Think Monica Geller. It’s not just a chore for me. It’s something I look forward to every week. Organizing my closet, my study desk, and my cupboards gives me immense pleasure. My mother who never tires of complaining about my laziness often wonders how I dramatically get the strength to clean my room so often. Every time I see a messy drawer or closet, it takes a lot of self control to stop myself from organizing it. And “lists”. How can I forget about making lists? A part of my need for complete organization of every aspect of my life. I make lists, rewrite them, I schedule and I organize. The pleasure of crossing off completed tasks from those lists. I have innumerable tiny notebooks, filing systems, study lists, to-do lists, random scraps of paper stuck to the bulletin board, organizational software on my pc…I’ve done it all. The results are not always what I expected them to be. I waste more time than I can afford to in making these lists in the first place…but nothing can beat the pleasure of opening the blank page of a new notebook, pencil in hand and my mind working furiously at the prospect of organizing a new schedule and the best way to do it. Nerdy and oh so pathetic. I know. But I love it.

3.Listening to the song I love repeatedly till I get bored of it eventually. Much to the annoyance of those who are forced to hear the song along with me for the nth time. This usually happens while going out for a drive. At home, my parents go out of their way to gift me headphones. And I love drifting into a daydream, a different scenario each time, while listening to the song. No wonder the rewind and play buttons of my iPod have smudged

4.Love mush. Worship mush. It’s a wonder how even the corniest of lines can make me go “aaaaaaaaaaaaw” and make tears well up in my eyes. Even the most commercial, most manipulative Hollywood movies trying to cash in on the emotions of romantic fools like me, would have at least one moment which would make me go weak in the knees. I believe in love despite not so good personal experiences. And I so want to believe that the harsh real world, that I’ve become a part of as an adult, still has those perfect little moments of pure romance hidden in it. And the movies, books that glorifies love gives me hope that maybe someday I’ll have those moments too. And for a change they would be real and true.

5.I have a very odd sleep schedule. Wake up at 3am. Sleep at 2pm. Wake up at 4 pm. Sleep at 11pm. And the cycle repeats. You got the idea. This is only a sample. It varies every week.

6.I love writing in purple ink. I’ve got a very bad handwriting. But when I write in purple ink…it appears legible and very neat. Maybe only I think so. Because my professors still have a very hard time making sense out of my chicken scribblings. Thank God for the digital era. Typing makes the job so much easier.

7.I love writing on whiteboards. Making concept maps. Random thoughts. That’s the way I like to study instead of taking notes on paper. I’ve made myself a portable whiteboard by laminating a few sheets of paper glued together. And I find it a far more convenient and active way to learn than passively copying notes. Economical and environment-friendly too.

8.I never forget birthdays and anniversaries. Yes, there had been occasional slips. But those are maybe one in a million, or a thousand, I mean a few hundreds. And that doesn’t count too much.

9.I love sketching. I know I’m not good at it. But I still do. I like sketching eyes. And buildings. And trees. I can’t sketch hands.

10.I’d never had long hair. I’d always worn my hair short. Really short. I tried few times to grow my hair long. But could never tame my hair during that awkward phase when your hair is too short to tie in a ponytail but there are flyaway strands sticking in all directions. I ended up cutting it short again.