Aug 1, 2019

Coping with the potential loss of a partner in an intergenerational relationship

Someone on Reddit posted a question about how one deals with (copes with) the potential loss of their partner in an intergenerational relationship. I didn't have a straight-up answer for this, but this is was what I responded with: 
I'm from India and I'll soon be 40. I have been in three relationships so far. 
The first one when I was 27 years old. It was a 3-year one with a then 67-year-old American from NYC. I knew that he had chronic illnesses but we were madly in love. He flew into live with me. He had serious complications of his long-term illnesses and had to be hospitalized in India. I then had to send him back home (I couldn't go myself because of visa issues). In NYC, he was admitted in multiple hospitals and eventually was put on life support for a few days. He eventually recovered, but couldn't make it back. We continued for a couple of more years and eventually sought other partners. Losing him multiple times was the hardest part of my life. I was diagnosed with PTSD and related depression and have been on therapy ever since.
The second relationship was with a 73-year-old man from Louisiana. Even though he is the oldest among the three, he was relatively healthy. This only lasted under a year and I was never really worried about losing him. 
The third (current) one I'm in right now is a 7-year relationship with an Indian man who is 51 now. He is overweight, has obstructive sleep apnea, and several related lifestyle disorders. He also suffers from low-self esteem, anxiety, and depression. He finds it difficult to take care of himself and his health is a constant worry.
In the last year, I lost both my parents. Even though I live in a different city by myself, I was by them in their last moments and had to attempt to resuscitate both of them. My mother's death was accidental (literally). I was in the next room and I heard some utensils fall. I called out and did not get a response, and rushed to see what was going on. I heard some strange sounds and couldn't figure out what was going on. Then I found her gasping on the kitchen floor. She died within minutes while I was resuscitating her. 
Now what this has done is that each night that I spend with my current partner, I am worried about finding him dead next to me. Often times I wake up earlier than him, and I am forced to check on him every now and then to ensure that he's still breathing and not dead. 
I know this might sound really dark and pessimistic, but that's how I am. I know that I could lose him any day and nothing is really under my control. So I try to do my best to enjoy the time I spend with him, despite the fact that the going is tough because of several issues and differences in opinion. 
I don't know if all this helps. But I thought I could at least give you someone who you probably can relate to.

Jul 6, 2019

Article 15 - a mini-review

Last night, I watched Article 15 after a recommendation from a lady friend of mine who I respect and whose judgment I trust. In the two-plus hours that I spent alongside an almost 50:50 audience of men/women in a relatively packed Mumbai multiplex screen, I went through a psychological riot, shifting from anger/outrage, sadness, laughter, introspection, reflection, hope, and contentment. A few drops of tears broke through my resilience during a couple of scenes. At the end of the movie, I found myself searching for faces that mirror my feelings, and I wasn't disappointed.

Aspects of the dark underbelly of 2019 India that the movie covers--some of which include casteism, gang rapes, honor killings, caste and religion politics, media blackouts, fake news, gender inequality, underwage labor, child labor, socioeconomic divide, urban-rural divide, armchair activism, gun violence, social media outrage, bureaucracy, corruption--are issues that should occupy a larger space in our collective consciousness. I hope this wonderful movie sparks educated conversations on these topics, which is the most effective way changes will percolate to the grassroots of society.

May 30, 2019

A former Mumbai medical resident’s take on the suicide of a Mumbai medical resident

I’m a former medical resident from Mumbai. I am in a Whatsapp group with my peers from Medical College. As expected, there is an active conversation in the group about the suicide of the Dalit doctor in Mumbai, allegedly due to casteist slurs by senior residents. Along with that there is a relatively healthy conversation about religion, hindutva, NDA, the 2019 elections, Modi etc. I generally keep myself quiet in this because of several reasons. But I decided to break my silence and ended up posting this.
Considering that I did my post graduation from Mumbai, I guess I can throw some light on this. It's a bit of a rant, but I hope to address a few points.

Racism (regionalism) and ragging/discrimination go hand in hand in my hospital. In my case, casteism was not applicable because I was born to Brahmin parents. But I did get discriminated for being from the the South, being different, being a musician, etc. despite being not too bad at Hindi. The people who perpetrated  the coincidental happened to be, voila, upper caste Hindus.

This discrimination is more among the senior residents upward. The nurses, assistants, and staff were super nice to me. So I was able to pull through.

I had to isolate myself from orthopedics/surgery etc residents because these departments seemed to have more people with such tendencies. I thankfully got a resident from psychiatry (someone who thought like Sebind, ironically) as a room mate. That led me to me hanging out more among his friends. Eventually, I came out to them and they were super cool with that.

In other words, I was more accepted by residents from other departments who were generally broadminded.

Most of you don't know that that I have been under treatment for depression. You may remember that I was on the quieter side of things in my first three years in our college. I have had suicidal tendencies through my undergraduate, postgraduate, post-postgraduate lives.

I eventually got diagnosed and treated at the end of my postgraduate tenure. One of the reasons that I took a sabbatical was because of this discrimination/ragging aspect, which seeps through the hierarchy everywhere, but especially in North India in surgical fields. As someone said, for every publicized suicide, there may have been 10s not publicized, 100s of suicide attempts, and 1000s of victims who have somehow managed to pull through. Like me.

What about Mumbai itself? I get discriminated on a regular basis because I'm South Indian and because I'm dark. Restaurants, pubs, hotels, live events, what not.

The common denominator in all of this is this. Lack of "education", relative upper caste origin, religiousness, lack of evidence-based thinking, all leading up to herd mentality and lack of tolerance.

Guess what drives all of this? The current government. They may not commit or admit to atrocities, but they still don't clamp down on happenings. There is no open stance apart from empty platitudes. Who are they serving? The corporations. Who's benefiting? Upper caste more than lower castes. Who's feeling insecure? Any minority, let it be religion, caste, orientation, gender, etc.

Whatever truths/lies people want to tell themselves to put a coat of paint on what's going on, I will not believe it because I'm a minority in many counts, despite being born upper caste.

And the irony is that these trends are so evident in my own family/extended family, my partner's family, my ex-orthopedic peers, and some among us here.

Guess some of you may get a hint of why I (have preferred) prefer to distance myself from some of these. Basically, I'm trying to protect myself.

All I have to say is this - the world is going darker for the minorities, including the economic one. This is being driven by religion, which is one of the most potent forces that can be harnessed to bring and keep people to power. Such trends are cyclical (~20 years), but the extent of damage unleashed on the persecutees can take 100s of years to reverse.

Aug 4, 2018

An interesting suggestion

The other day, someone contacted me on a dating app.

Before we get any further -- Yes, I am partnered and I'm still active on these dating apps. To hell with idealized, restrictive, socially reinforced "monogamy". I'm still monogamous sexually/emotionally, but that is a choice because the relationship that I'm in would benefit from it. I still enjoy chatting and flirting with people from around the world. And yes, some of the material on these dating sites is very good fodder for masturbation.

So among the several who contact me on these dating apps, one stood out. This younger man seemed to find my profile interested and found me "sane and sorted". He then went on to check my blog(s) (I guess both Engayging Life and Neverlast). In the chat conversation that followed, where we discussed how this blog was way more mainstream than it is now, he suggested that I took some time out from my otherwise busy life, contribute to the community.

In other words, he proposed that my writings could still be relevant in the current day and age to help LGBTQI folk. Interviews and op-eds, maybe.

I discuss such things with my partner and a close friend. My partner, admittedly jealous (yes, I am ashamed that jealousy is still a thing in our relationship) suggested that the nice words was pure flattery. The friend thought that this was not such a bad idea.


Jun 13, 2018

An update about Neverlast

Blogging seems so late 2000s these days, at least for me.

Until about 6 years ago, around the time I met J, this blog used to be where I opened my heart out, and let loose all the shit that my brain came up with. I'm not suggesting that the outlet that I had on this blog has somehow been replaced by a man. No, not at all. Yet, I admit that we do have strange conversations. But that's not why I stopped writing here.

Life became packed. Dating someone within the same geographical boundaries means that your social life kinda doubles. Plus music. Gigs, rehearsals, gigs, and more. Plus, ever heard of social media and podcasts?

Yet, a few years ago, when I was visiting my parents in Thiruvananthapuram, I scratched that itch to write again. Write blogs, that is. I had just started exploring Tumblr and I thought, Why not? Tumblr had a nice app which you could easily draft posts in. It was more intuitive for sharing images/gifs. Why not, indeed? That's how Neverlast was born.

Strangely enough [with three heaped scoops of irony], Tumblr became my desirable source of erotica. Anyway, Tumblr, for some fucking reason, does not let you have multiple user accounts on the app. That was a huge dampner to my blogging efforts. Since then, I have linked  my Instagram to Tumblr, and Neverlast gets all my instas, yo.

Coming to the point -- I'm back with my parents. Some slight changes, though. They are in Chennai. My father is in his deathbed. My mother has become even more complaining and talkative than she was before. I'm here helping my sister out to manage my parents. I'm somehow able to meaningfully communicate and spend time with a child (my niece)! But I have become even more averse to talking on the phone to other people (like J) and share what craziness I'm going through.

This means that all day I go through an exquisitely frustrating ordeal of managing chaos, noise, interruptions, while attempting to work from home. This is indeed no fun. I get my shit together once my Mom goes to bed around 10 pm. And today, I have work to finish. So I took a shower to rinse myself off all the frustration. And in the shower, I thought - Why not, indeed?

So I am going to try and microblog on Neverlast once more. You are welcome to check it out.

May 10, 2018

The Mowgli in me

Those who have known me for a while would be aware of my ability to make friends just about any cat/dog (a cat/dog whisperer?). Yes, over the years, I have developed to knack of reading the psyche our furry brethren and modulating my behavior/posture to make them feel comfortable and not intimidated.

How did this all start? When I was 6 years old, I started the daily ritual of going over to my neighborhood friend’s house with my elder sister. I was too young to play with my considerably elder peers. Fortunately, I found some other playmates, thanks to my neighbor’s grandmother. Her passion was rearing cats, and she had about 20 of them[1] (with ~2 or 3 litters of kittens) at any point in time. I was initially afraid of these adorable but hazardous monsters, but I slowly got used to being with them and handling them. I started paying closer attention to how kittens/cats behaved, and eventually learned how to mimic their cries and sounds. [2] In fact, I became so effective in managing them that my neighbor’s family called me for help regarding any feline emergencies!

At 12 years of age, I adopted one my of my neighbor’s cats (Thalla Poocha – meaning Mother Cat in Malayalam) who brought dozens of litters of joy to my house over the next decade. I eventually adopted (from PETA/SPCA) a cat-friendly dog to help me manage my feline population. During this period, the kittens I raised earned the reputation of being well behaved and human friendly, and eventually were in demand for being adopted. [3] [4] Many of these felines are now spread across Kerala. Eventually, I moved to Bombay for my post-graduation, and adopted a kitten (aptly named Manohar Kadam) at the hostel. He eventually became the darling of the hostel/mess. After moving out of the hostel, I didn't have the means to have pets in my life. But I made friends with cats and dogs whenever I had a chance. One of them is the infamous Motu Patchy, who was a big street dog at the building where my company's offices were in the late 2000s. He started taking seriously the role of “protecting” us to the extent that he would snarl at and chase delivery boys!

Over the last few years, with the help of my partner, I have been able to adopt/rescue a dog in Alibag (KiKi), two kittens in Alibag (Spock[5]/Billyji), and two kittens in Mumbai (Miggins[6]/Blu). Here’s to more paws in mine and our lives!

Blu and I, a week after she was rescued from the mean streets of Colaba.

[1] My grandmother used to tell me these fantastic stories our neighbor’s ~120 cats lining up on a low parapet wall to be fed fish!
[2] I was so nerdy even back then that one my first summer school project was to study cat behavior and psychology!
[3] I eventually adopted another female cat, who could not get along with Thalla Poocha. Coincidentally, these cats two gave birth to two litters of 4 and 5 kittens, separated by just 3 days. I mixed these litters up in their infancy, and the two mom cats shared maternal responsibilities for all 9 kittens.
[4] My Instagram name chachoch is a derivative of the names of my favorite batch of kittens. Chakku, Chokki, Chakki.
[5] Spock has been missing for over a year. Male cats tend migrate and find new territories. We hope that he’s safe and thriving somewhere in the nearby villages.
[6] We lost Miggins to feline leukemia at the tender age of 4 months.

Jul 21, 2017

Mental illness awareness

I have been fighting depression for well over a decade and I have had personal and professional setbacks because of it. There have been many a times when I have felt like giving up. But I'm still here fighting, not just for myself but for others in my life who have stood by me.

I have been fortunate to have had the right people and the right intervention at the right stages. These include complex pharmacological interventions, lifestyle modifications, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and self-education. It took a lot of time building courage to accept myself, to share my burden with others, and to eventually sensitize others about mental illnesses. My battles have also given me strength to support others waging theirs, and it is this that now motivates me to carry on fighting my own.

At times such as this when the whole world is in shock and mourning after losing their idols, the best way to grieve is perhaps to simply look around you and accept, acknowledge, and support those fighting mental illnesses without ostracizing them.