Jun 29, 2012

Doctor, Doctor!

Jane Austen has crept under my skin. I seem to be living, breathing and dreaming her characters and her language. Thoughts are now forming in my head, inspired by the manner and style of her writing (although quite poorly, I admit, in comparison). Try as I may, I am unable to shake it off. Although, perhaps, I may not be trying too hard. For it is hardly anything but a pleasure to have the works of an author such as herself to dwell upon. For now, Miss Bennet and Mr. Darcy have become the sole objects of my imagination. I have been held captive by the beauty of their delicate romance. So much so, that I find myself in need of a break from it. 

Moving on, to the subject at hand. Doctors.

Much has been said about the greed and wrong-doings of doctors these days, especially on the widely watched Satyamev Jayate. My article today, however, is not going to be on these subjects. I only desire to recount my own experiences with a few extremely absurd gentlemen and lady doctors, whom I have had the misfortune of consulting. Do not misunderstand me, I hold certain doctors in the highest regard. Particularly, the  fathers of a few of my dear friends, who are excellent doctors and men of great humour. 

I, however, seem to have the worst luck with doctors. It seems almost impossible for me to find a single talented doctor who performs his/her duty with the dignity, maturity and grace that could be expected from a person whose business it is to heal people. I regret to inform you that most of the doctors I have met recently could be best described as ludicrous clowns, ill suited to bring ease and comfort to a patient in suffering. I prefer not to delve too deep into the past, and will provide you with accounts of my misfortunes of the past year. 

Last year, when I was at the very beginning of my residence at Bangalore, I found myself in need of the services of a gynecologist. The hospital nearest to my residence was Manipal, and hence I arrived there with my husband. I am sorry to inform you that the particular lady doctor I saw was indeed not a lady at all. In fact, I wonder that she was a doctor in the first place. 

Upon entering her consultation room, we discovered her to be in an extreme state of distress over her malfunctioning computer! She kept us waiting for several minutes while she continued to berate her assistant over these technical matters. When my case was finally heard, her irritations did not seem to cease and I became the object of them. I ended up receiving a severe telling-off (for what, do not ask me, for I am not aware of my mistakes), and then was sent off to withstand a battery of blood and other physical examinations. Not wanting to create an argument with this particularly foul-faced character, we decided to call it a day.

A little over half-a-year ago, I once again found myself in need of a doctor for the treatment of a vicious discomfort (pain) in the back. The issue was simple, the treatment, undoubtedly, had to be straightforward. As you can guess, however, this was not to be, given my ill fortune in the case of doctors. I once again chanced upon one of the worst of the female species, masquerading in the attire of the medical profession. The 'doctor' in question, questioned me about my age, height, and other not-so-vital statistics. She then requested me to stand upon a weighing machine. 

The moment I ascended, she uttered a loud cry, recoiling several inches with an expression of utmost horror. At first I was confused over the object of her distress, but I soon discovered her to be staring at the numerals on the scale. Now in all honesty, let me inform you that I might be a few kilos overweight, but I assure you that it is nothing so bad as to warrant such a reaction. The rest of the consultation was spent in her issuing me with dire warnings about the state of my health, and the very likely hood that I was to contract a high levels of blood sugar and blood pressure the very moment I touched the age of thirty. Once again, a battery of blood and physical examinations were prescribed. I must report to you that I have never visited the woman since, and the back-pain has relieved of its own accord.

I now arrive at my third and final account. It is perhaps the most important of them all, since the meeting has left me with a distaste for doctors so great that it will be quite some time before I am comfortable in seeing one again. In this case, the gentleman was a doctor of an alternate medical therapy, Homeopathy, to be precise. We had received considerable recommendation of his practice from various sources on the internet and hence, decided to pay him a visit for a particular chronic malady of mine.

The very moment we entered the reception area of the premises was one of confusion. There were too many people around and it took us some time to ascertain where the receptionist was seated. Once we located her, she very promptly informed us that we would need to procure a 100-page notebook, before any other matter could be discussed. This completely threw us off, having had no prior expectation of this. As we glanced at each other in confusion, a middle aged man approached us (whom I presumed to be an attender),  provided us with a sheet of instructions to follow and very curtly informed us that if we did not find them to our liking, we were free to leave. Utterly bewildered at such behaviour, M and I quickly took seats to read the instructions. 

The page-long list was read and complied with, the 100-page notebook procured and we were ushered in to the consultation room. Inside were seated the very attender from earlier, next to an extremely over-dressed young woman, who seemed to have lost her way from a movie set. Presuming her to be the doctor, I began relating my troubles. However, she frequently kept glancing towards the attender with some discomfort. As he began interjecting with questions regarding my illness, it finally dawned upon me that this gentleman was in fact, the doctor, the young lady being his assistant. Recovering from my folly rather quickly, I proceeded to inform him of my issues. The conversation that followed was as such:

Doc: Kindly come back to me with a scan of the said body parts and only then will I be able to provide you with medication.

Me (highly skeptical about doctors and scans): Is it not possible to provide treatment without the scan, doctor?

Doc (now highly offended and angry): How much do you spend on private hospitals in a year, madam? After all I provide a free service here and you hesitate to do as told?

I looked to M for support. He began to reason with the doctor and it was finally decided that the scan would be conducted.

Doc (still visibly upset at the doubt of his credibility and hence speaking in a very severe voice): Madam, I wish to tell you that had you come to me 15 years ago (when the problem first started), I would have cured you in a day. Just one day. You have done all kinds of nonsense and now you expect me to fix you just like that?! You must go ahead with the scan, there is no other way. There is an excellent scanning facility a kilometer from here, which is where I would like to see a report from.

Me: But doctor, there's one right beside my home, which I am quite comfortable with.

Doc (angered once again): Madam, if you cannot follow my instructions, please leave right away. Here is your file. 

M and I were completely unsure of what to do next. Meanwhile, the young lady began asking me questions about any other illness I may have. I mentioned an allergy in passing.

Doc: What?? You have an allergy problem and you're telling me now?? Haven't you read the instructions at all madam? You are to inform me of each an every problem you have in your body. Now you tell me of this allergy. What are you allergic to, come on, tell me.

Me: Dust mites, I guess...

Doc: Are you sure? Only dust mites? Because if you tell me the specific thing you are allergic to, I can provide you with a medicine so potent that you will be cured in a day. But yes, you must be sure you are allergic only to that substance. If not, the medicine won't work. Are you sure?

Me: Well...

Doc: Any other problem you are having?

Me: I dunno, well, dandruff, I guess...

Doc: No problem, we will give you a wig if you lose all your hair. Next. Anything else?

Before I could answer, the young lady interjected...

Young Lady: Madam, we will deliver you with the first dose of medicine today, and the next dose after you return with the scan report. You must in the mean time, stop all other forms of medication. Even if you have a cold, fever, or any other problem, you must only come to us for medication. You cannot go to any other doctor or take any other pills.

Me (now highly disconcerted): Umm...

The medicine was being prepared while the doctor continued to ramble on in a loud voice about the various accomplishments of homeopathic sciences, and the decided failure of all other streams of medicine. 

Me (suddenly remembering): Umm, doctor, I do take multi-vitamin supplements. Would you like me to stop those too?

Doc (in a state of complete rage, slapping my file on the table): WHAT is the meaning of this madam? Can't you follow simple instructions? I said NO OTHER medicine, and I meant NO OTHER medicine. Why do you ask me stupid questions? You are completely unfit to be my patient. We will not be giving you any medicine. Please leave right away. LEAVE. NOW. GO!

Needless to say, M and I made a very hasty exit from the place. Once outside, we could not understand whether we were to laugh or cry. The very experience we had had was completely unnerving, not to mention unreal. We were of the feeling that we had just emerged from a madhouse of sorts. The rest of the evening was spent in discussing the turn of events, and we were at a complete loss of understanding regarding everything that had occurred. 

Through these instances, I have merely stated my case. I leave you to be the judge of whether these so-called doctors must be bestowed with the additional title of Incompetent Baffoon, or not. I must now take your leave, for more pressing matters (lunch) await my attention. I earnestly hope that my difference in language today has not offended you, and if it has, I must insist that you do not waste any time in telling me so. You may also have a few laughs at my expense, for I will not mind it in the least. Good day!

Jun 24, 2012

Lazy Sunday...

Bangalore is beautiful today. It's sunny and warm in a comfortable, cozy sort of way. I'm lazing on my reclining chair and M is lying beside me. We've got some slow jazz playing in the background. A bit of talking, some reading, a little bit of writing. Everything is just perfect. 

Earlier today we were out for a Sunday brunch at this bright little place called Daddy's Deli - suggested by Soumya who blogs at LOL. She said I would thank her after. She sure was right. Thanks a ton Soumya, the place and food were excellent.

As always, I took a few snaps before digging in. 

Spanish Omelette with Brown Bread Toast. Easily one of the best omelettes I've had. The eggs were done just right, the seasoning was perfect and the bits of mushroom were a delight.

Pancakes. Were quite nice too, although a bit too sweet for my liking. I like my syrup on the side so I can adjust the sweetness, but these pancakes were pre-dipped in juicy, sticky syrup. One was good enough for me, I kind of struggled to finish the rest. Awesome presentation, though

Waffles. The website claims these to be the 'best waffles in town' and I am not going to disagree. As Soumya rightly suggested, they were the "best waffles ever". At least, best out of whatever I've had so far. It seems like they are so simple to make, and yet it's amazing how so many places get it wrong. Not Daddy's Deli though. Their's was wonderfully warm, doused in just the perfect amount of syrup, crispy at the right places, served with some fruit and a dollop of vanilla ice cream that took the dish to a whole new level. 

I would have liked to try a lot more from the menu, but unfortunately M and I don't have very large appetites so we were pretty full after these dishes. We stayed on a bit longer and I tried some of their cinnamon coffee, after which I decided that I'm not too fond of cinnamon as a spice. It's not the coffee I suppose, it's just me. We then slowly sauntered back home, not wanting to miss out on the lovely weather and the wide, green streets of Indiranagar. 

The Daddy's Deli experience was pretty much like eating at home, right from the cutlery to the wonderful people who served us. We were greeted by the owner herself, who kept checking on us from time to time. The decor was quite endearing; I regret not having taken any more pictures. Daddy's Deli is basically a Parsi food restaurant with a cafe that serves breakfast and brunch. Perhaps we will return sometime to try out their Parsi fare. 

If you happen stray over to this side of town, Daddy's Deli sure is a place to try out. There's an interesting story behind the conception of this restaurant, which you can read on their wesbite. 

M has fallen into a light slumber and the music has stopped. I guess I'll return to my book now. Currently on my reading list is Pride and Prejudice. I've decided to re-read all 6 of Jane Austen's novels. Let's see how that goes. 

How was your lazy Sunday?

May 30, 2012

Highs and Lows. Ups and Downs. The Ol' Sine Wave. You know...

I am happy to inform you that the muse has indeed not abandoned me. She was on a short vacation. Now she is back.

I do not plan posts ahead. I have nothing written in my drafts. The words just pop into my head and then I have to stop all other work and start typing. That's how erratic it is for me. As everything else in my life, my writing is highly unorganized. Most great writers have ideas/thoughts/something to fall back on. Since I am not one, I had nothing to go to when the muse ran away. So I simply stayed away. I didn't even bother trying or beating myself up about it. I just didn't open my blog only

Just now, in the middle of dinner, a post started to form itself once more. The old upstairs-machine obviously has some juice left in it so I quickly gobbled up my food and sat down to type. I shall proceed to give you an update on my life in the past month or so.

As many artistically inclined people do (I imagine myself to be one, so please live with it), I suffer from the swings of the mood and quite often, too. Sometimes they aren't so much swings as they are whole flights into outer space. So I have been varying from the depths of depression to the highs of happiness in the time I have been away. No, I do not suffer from Bi-polar disorder or any other such complicated psychological afflictions. I'm just a normal, slightly dramatic, highly emotional human being. 

Of the time I was away, I spent a couple of weeks back home at mom's. The highs of this period were:

1. Several dosas with copious amounts of molaga-podi were consumed.
2. Obscene quantities of curd rice with tomato pickle were devoured. 
3. Lip-smacking bowls of vanilla ice-cream were polished off every day.
4. Large-scale gossip/story-telling sessions were held with my beloved Patti.
5. Nos.1,2, and 3 balanced out quite beautifully with no.4. No additional body weight was put on.

The recorded lows were as follows:

1. A painful dental surgery was carried out on me that rendered my right jaw completely useless and swollen to the size of a tennis ball. Ok, table-tennis ball. Ok, ok, fine maybe just a tamarind-ball. It still did hurt a lot, though. As proof of my sufferings and valiant endurance, I give you, Exhibit A:

These are the two hard-ass wisdom teeth that formerly resided on my right jaw. They were so stubbornly hard to pluck out that they actually left the dentist sweating. They finally did come out, obviously, but they had their revenge. I was left in a lot of pain that only reduced a few days ago. On the bright side, I did get to eat a lot of ice-cream. 

I hope the photograph doesn't disgust you. M assures me that by displaying it, I am effectively committing blog-suicide because no one will ever return to this space. Well, I thought I'd take my chances because I'm pretty darn proud of how courageous I was on the dentist's chair and these are sort of like a reminder of that. So you will just have to look at them and be reminded too.

2. The second and only other low was that I didn't want to come back to Bangalore. As accustomed as I am to living and being alone (having no siblings and all), I just liked the company of family so much that I wanted it to last longer. No, not all the time, of course. But I'd still like to see them every two or three weeks at least. Living alone does have its pros, but not being able to see your family does kinda suck.

So that's most of what happened with me. The freelance writing career is in a sort of a rocky phase right now. I happened to lose a job a few weeks back. And I've been having some trouble with a pesky client. That just sucks the fun out of writing. It's hard to write for people who have no idea what they want, so first they say they liked what you wrote and then they keep asking you to change everything about it. So yes, writing hasn't been giving me much joy either, lately. 

Well, in a way this might be good for me because I have been toying with a few ideas for writing projects of my own. You know, the kind where I write for myself. One of them is a new blog and the other is a book. These are just ideas for now. I'm thinking a lot about them. Just thinking though. I guess what's holding me back is a lack of sufficient confidence in my writing skills. I mean, writing a simple personal blog is different. But attempting an entire book? I'm terrified of starting. I don't even know where to start. It's like engineering an entire project on my own, solely relying on my ability to string a few thousand readable words together. My fear is not if people will like it, or even if I will like it. My fear is that I won't be able to do it. So right now I'm trying to gather up some courage to get started. Any ideas?

Apr 19, 2012

My Take on Weight Loss - Be Sensible. Be Happy.

I am inspired to write this post today after reading an article on the blog of an Indian author. I have not read her book(s), so I don't really know much about her as an author, but I've only just been following her blog and this particular post of her's has compelled me to write.

The subject of weight loss is very close to my heart. Food, nutrition, exercise (you know the whole story) are concepts I've worked hard at, failed, tried again, failed again for many, many years. I have lost oodles of weight and put it all back again. If anything, I've learned a lot from the process. I've even learned to make peace with the situation, as is evident if you read a previous post of mine on food and eating habits.

Img Credit: Helga Weber

Before I go any further, I'd just like to clarify that I am by no means a 'thin' person as defined by society. I may be called chubby, fat, or even obese, depending on individual perceptions. I choose (well, at least I try hard) not to classify myself; I am what I am. I have made my peace with the fact that my body structure dictates how I look and not the latest trends (did you know that size 0 is no longer fashionable?). I always have been and will be a curvaceous woman. That is the truth. 

So coming to this author's article, she's penned down a few (long list of) strategies for herself to be able to lose weight. Reading it made me sad, because I have been down that road. I've written such lists too, tried to be strict with myself, tried to force myself into a certain type of behaviour, but it never did work. Much later did I realize that my entire approach was wrong. Now, I mean no offence to this writer, because her list might actually work for her, and I hope it does. Some of her points are quite sensible, but some I can't bring myself to agree on. I'd like to do a sort of response to her thoughts, based on what I've learned through my experience. I may be wrong, I may be blinded by my perceptions too, so please feel free to disagree with me. 

Today, my approach towards health and fitness is very rational and sustainable. Here's what I think/do/follow:

1. Calories

The concept of calories is very logical and scientific. It's mathematically correct that if your body's BMR is 1500 and you eat less than that, you should be able to burn the deficit in a certain number of days. However, this is not the only factor governing what your body chooses to burn or store. There are additional factors such as hormones that work their magic too. Did you know that there was a week when I pigged out on potato chips and my body burned it all? And there was another time when I was on a strict diet and actually put on weight. 

Img Credit: nutrition education

It's important to realize that if your body wants to store fat, it will and if it wants to burn it, it will. The body has its reasons for functioning the way it does.Your best bet is to be sensible and feed it with healthy/wholesome food, eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are full. Playing the calorie game is too stressful. It's better to learn to pay attention and understand what your body needs.

2. Sugar Cravings

Let's face it. Many of us are addicted to junk/sugary foods. So am I. I have spent years trying to control myself like a mad woman. But control only makes it worse. There was a time when I did not touch sweets for an entire year. You'd think that would have helped me. Yes, I didn't put on any weight. But when when the year was up the cravings got so huge that I ended up pigging out big time. 

Img Credit: tanvach

What we need to do is get to the root of the issue here. I watched a documentary called 'Hungry for Change' that explained it pretty well. It is really not our fault, we are not bad for craving sugar and fat. In reality, we are genetically programmed to do so. Where there is fat, there is survival - is the law of the jungle. It's just that hundreds of years ago, there was less fat to eat and more (physical) work to do. Today, the fat is everywhere, in abundance, and we don't really have to lift a finger most of the time. It's not wrong that we crave sugar, it's wrong that we have so much of it around to eat. That is unnatural. Don't blame your palate or yourself for being a foodie. Everybody is one. Things like food and sex are naturally meant to be pleasurable, in the interest of the protection and procreation of life.

3. Saying No

Does not work. Even observing a 2-year-old will teach you this. The moment you say 'no', you know you want it all the more. It's fundamental, really. We always want what we can't have. So forget about saying no to seconds, no to leftovers, no to that divine chocolate cake, no to anything you love. Instead, concentrate on saying yes. Say yes to carrots, yes to beets, yes to greens and also to other vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, pulses, eggs, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. This is another concept I got from 'Hungry for Change'. Focus on what to add, not what to remove from your diet. Abrupt changes and fanciful diets are very difficult to maintain in the long run. Instead, focus on building good eating habits for life. Understand what your body loves.

Img Credit: achichi
Allow me to illustrate. M and I first put oats into our lives for breakfast. We didn't focus on improving any other meal. It was just oatmeal for breakfast, day in and day out. We hated it, we cribbed about it, we even craved and had some puris once in a while. But then we always kept going back to the oats. After about 3-4 months, we started to health it up a bit more by adding nuts, pumpkin and flax seeds and dry fruits to it. It tastes so yummy today to us that we don't really want to have anything else for breakfast. Plus, it's so easy to make and it keeps us very energetic. Now that the morning meal is taken care of, we have moved on to dinner. We're trying to incorporate Jowari Roti (Millet flat breads) into our night-time meals. It's not easy, as expected. But we're working on it.

Img Credit: needoptic

The concept here is that eventually you are filling yourself with so much of good food, that the bad foods will be automatically pushed out. It won't happen in a day or a week or a few months even, but eventually it will. And when they do go out they will mostly stay out. You will be able to have just a bite of cake and stop at that. It won't be a struggle anymore. 

After having said all this, I don't think I need to explain why the 'starve now, eat later' strategy will never work. Telling yourself to stop now and eat once the weight is gone will not work. You know why, right?

4. Exercise

From point number 2, we understand that two things about our lives are different from the lives of our ancestors. The first is the abundance of food, which we've covered. The second is the lack of physical activity. Our muscles are just not strong as they can be. Many of us are at bad levels of fitness.

So what's the solution? I don't know for sure, but I can tell you this: again, you are at your body's mercy. Some people lose weight if they simply walk to the market and some don't even after slogging at the gym for hours. Exercise is not magic. It will not guarantee that a certain number of kilos will be shed off for sure if you exercise for so many hours, so many times a week. And yet, it is important to get plenty.

Img Credit: synergybyjasmine
What kind of exercise to do? How many hours to do it? I would say that the same principle applies here too: listen to your body. Start off slow, don't be over ambitious. Avoid saying, 'the wedding is in three months and I have to lose 24 kilos so two kilos a week.' It doesn't work that way for most people. The most important thing is to fall in love with your physical activity. If you're crying to go to the gym, it may work but it's not going to be sustainable. If you hate walking, you're probably not going to do it for the rest of your life. Take up the activity you enjoy most and is easy for you to make time for in your busy schedule.

Listen to your body: in time you will understand when it is tired and you have to stop, when you can push it to go that little bit more, and when you must keep it moderate. A work out session must leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, not beat up. Plan to exercise for a lifetime, not just until you lose weight.

5. Stress/Emotions

This is something I'm still trying to figure out myself, so I'm not going to pretend like I understand how to deal with them. I do know that of course, they play a huge role in a person's health. I also understand it's a vicious cycle. Bad foods (lack of nutrition) make you cranky, and crankiness makes you reach out for bad food. Adding more nutrition may be a good place to try and start to break the cycle.

Like I said, it's all still a work in progress, I'm still learning as I go but this is what I've been able to figure out so far. I'm not in a hurry to lose weight, to reach any 'number', and I am really tired of wanting to look like someone else. It's out of this sheer tiredness that I gave up - not working on myself, but I gave up on those ridiculous and impossible expectations. I don't want a thin photo on my fridge, I don't want to compare my body with anyone else's. I don't know if it'll work, but I'm certainly a happier person for it.

Do you have anything you'd like to share or add?

Apr 13, 2012

Books || JAYA ~ Devdutt Pattanaik

It was through the episodes of Business Sutra on YouTube that I first came to know about Devdutt Pattanaik. His in depth knowledge of Indian mythology and an uncanny ability to apply those stories to our present-day situations made the series an extremely interesting watch. Of course, I had to read all about him immediately, and when I found out he had authored books too, I was excited. A medical doctor by degree and leadership consultant by profession, Devdutt Pattanaik's true passion is mythology. Among several books authored by him is Jaya - a retelling of the epic Mahabharat. I've never been much of a mythology enthusiast but I must say, "Jaya" is truly un-putdownable.

Until I read this book, I must admit that I had only read the story of Mahabharat in bits and pieces. I knew the main characters, I knew the basic story line, etc., but I had never read it in depth with an intention to reflect on its wisdom and apply it to my life. Having said that, Jaya was a good place to start. The book touches upon the entire story without going into too many details, it manages to give a good glimpse of what the epic stands for along with any underlying symbolism. Devdutt Pattanaik's narration is in simple English, his style of writing is pretty smooth. He also provides footnotes to each chapter/story with his interpretations and thoughts. These footnotes make a lot of sense and provide deeper perspective into the characters and their lives.

The Mahabharat as narrated by Dr. Pattanaik, to say the least, is a fascinating tale. He starts with a brief description of the original author of the epic, Vyasa, as well as its original structure. The epic consists of 18 chapters, and a total of about 100,000 verses. The chapter about the gambling match where the Pandavas lose all their fortune alone has about 4311 verses. To read and make sense of all those verses written in an ancient language is extremely difficult for someone like me, so it's books like Jaya that I rely on. I know there have been several retellings of the Mahabharat so far, but this is the first one I've read from cover to cover, so do spare my enthusiasm for the experience. 

Summarizing or reviewing the book would be of little use, since it in itself is a summary of a much larger epic. As I went through the book, there were several little points of 'wisdom' that I stopped to ponder upon.  Some of them I even earmarked for future pondering, since of course, there is no end to introspection. Perhaps several other blog posts will arise as I return to the timeless wisdom of the Mahabharat time and again. But for now, I will list out a few things that really got my attention. 

  • It occurred to me as I was reading this book, that the Mahabharat is not very different from present-day fantasy novels, but for its epic proportions. Of course, I'm putting all religious significance aside. No blasphemy intended. Undoubtedly it is a tale of great wisdom that one can learn several things from, but there are also present within it all the elements of fascination associated with the fantasy genre. For instance, the misunderstood/rejected hero - Karna. And of course all the creatures, some of which are friendly to humans and some that are not. Dr. Pattanaik points out:"The Mahabharat is populated not only by Manavas or humans but also by a variety of beings such as Devas who live in the sky, Asuras who live under the earth, Apsaras or nymphs who live in rivers, hooded serpents who talk called Nagas, forest spirits called Yakshas, warrior-musicians of the woods called Gandharvas and brute barbians called Rakshasas."
  • But then again, it would be a wrong to call the Mahabharat a mere fantasy novel, because it is also a lot like real life. Characters change. They evolve. They learn things. And yet, they forget their lessons and make mistakes. Krishna advises Arjun before the battle of Kurukshetra that the war must be fought for Dharma, out of a mere sense of duty. He understands it then, but it soon becomes personal for Arjun after the death of his son. And at the end of it all, the story is not just about who won the war. The Pandavas may have won, but the story doesn't end there. The true ending is when Yudhishtir, the eldest Pandav, wins the battle over his own anger, his own prejudice, his own self. 
  • A recurring theme in the Mahabharat is that of karma. What is most striking thorough various stories is the fact that what seems like bad luck could end up as good luck, and what seems like a fortune could actually bring ruin later. Dr. Pattanaik observes, "No one on earth can foretell the consequences of any action, however wise he may be." Also, not every good deed brings positive consequences and not every bad deed brings negative ones. For it is impossible to even distinguish between bad and good. A deed that benefits one, may cause a deep loss for another. Such is the ambiguity of life and karma. 
  • The conflict between varna-dharma (taking up the vocation of forefathers) and choosing one's own path in life is another theme that is brought out through the epic. In various instances, those who digress from their family professions have various motives to do so. For some it is desire (Karna), for some vengeance (Drona), and for some (Krishna), it is mere duty - doing what needs to be done. 
  • The Mahabharat is not filled with just beautiful women who please men. The words of Chitrangada, the ugly warrior princess, as she reveals her true self to Arjun, truly speak out to me: "I am not beautifully perfect as the flowers with which I worship. I have many flaws and blemishes. I am a traveller in the great world-path, my garments are dirty, and my feet are bleeding with thorns. The gift that I proudly bring you is the heart of a woman. Here have all pains and joys gathered, the hopes and fears and shames of a daughter of the dust; here love springs up struggling towards immortal life. Herein lies an imperfection which yet is noble and grand."
  • "Vyasa keeps asking what makes a woman a wife. It emerges that it is civilized society with its laws of marital fidelity that makes a woman a wife. But in the forest, there are no rules. Can a woman still be a wife? It is evident through the story of Jayadhrata that neither society nor forest can make a woman a wife; it is only the desire and the discipline of man that can do so."
  • The importance of travel is highlighted in the Mahabharat. Of course, not the kind of sightseeing and luxury travel that we do these days. But travel as a means of exploring the world, and also one's inner self. The 12 years spent by the Pandavas travelling through forests was an important period as it changed them in many ways. They met with Rishis who told them stories, they meditated in caves, "saw the sun rise from sacred mountain tops" and bathed in holy rivers and lakes. "The journey gave them a fresh perspective on life." 
  • Draupadi's beauty: "Even though she is innocent, her beauty arouses all men who end up wanting to hurt and humiliate her because she is chaste and unavailable." I can correlate this to a few women I have known in real life. 
  • "That which deludes you to be unhappy can be overpowered by another delusion that causes greater unhappiness." This beautiful truth is explained in the story of Gandhari, who is mourning for the death of her 100 sons. In a moment of extreme hunger, she comes across a sweet mango and forgets all about her sons, even using their carcasses as a stepping stone to reach the fruit. This is the power of maya.
  • The last chapter is particularly profound. I cannot go into it entirely as it would take very long, but here are the last lines of the book: "Let us all have faith. Let us all be at peace - with ourselves, our worlds, and all the rest there is."

And sure enough, as I closed the book, I felt an incredible sense of peace within me. Reading about the turmoil and conflicts faced by various characters, what happens to them finally in the scheme of life, and the very nature of life itself; it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Often one worries over small matters in life. Epics like these put everything back into place, into perspective. Into peace.